Wetland degradation is currently a major global environmental challenge. In Uganda, the situation is similar despite the country’s relatively long history of wetland policy and legislation. This study was carried out after over two decades since the onset of an ambitious national wetlands programme to examine local awareness and perceptions wetlands policy and legislation. It was conducted on the basis that understanding of the opinions and attitudes of farmers and other wetland users regarding wetland policies and regulations helps managers and policy makers in making informed decisions for sustainable wetland management. Semi-structured interviews conducted with 222 randomly selected households resident within a 5 km radius of the sampled wetlands were augmented by three Focus Group Discussions and 40 key informant interviews. More than half of the respondents (64%) were aware of the national wetlands management and conservation policy, with 32% expressly suggesting that the provisions in the National Environment Act are sufficient to support sustainable use of wetlands while only 6% expressed knowledge of informal or traditional rules and regulations for use of wetlands. Regression results revealed that education and income status significantly influenced respondents awareness of the wetland policy and provisions in other formal policies and laws. Residents of both Lake Victoria Crescent and South western farm lands were significantly (p<0.05) more likely to be aware of provisions in other formal policies and laws, owing to sensitisation by conservation projects based in these localities and having operational Community-based Wetland Management Plan. Majority (77%) of respondents expressed that the policies and legal provisions on wetlands were not adequately enforced and nearly 90% of the respondents perceived a need for locally tailored by-laws and ordinances and an improvement in communication of information about wetland policy. Irrespective of improvement in awareness of the wetland policy and legislation in Uganda, enforcement is likely to remain poor due to limited livelihood options for local people as they use wetlands for food security and livelihood improvement. Local communities also claim ignorance of wetland policy, regulations and laws that they do not agree with, given the sensitivity of use and management of wetland resources. Successful conservation of wetlands will thus depend on implementation of acknowledged policy and legal provisions coupled with the crafting and creation of awareness of locally tailored policies, by- laws and ordinances on wetlands.


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