Nabajjuzi Wetland

Nabajjuzi wetland is a verdant Ramsar site situated in the south-western side of Masaka district in Central Uganda, at approximately 120 kilometers south-west of Kampala. This vast wetland system is made up of a linear swamp on the floor of the Nabajjuzi River Valley and stretches for about 2,144 hectares at an elevation of 1200 to 1300 meters above sea level.

This wonderful Ramsar site stretches northwards along the Nabajjuzi valley for about 40 kilometers from Masaka Town to its confluence with the main swamp of River Katonga that drains into the large Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest Lake thus Nabajjuzi is a tributary of River Katonga Basin. It also stretches up to the Kagera River basin area to the north and continues past the periphery of Masaka Town Municipal Council along the Mbarara highway to the south.

This relatively smaller wetland system is mainly characterized by few vegetation types-dominated by Cyperus papyrus with patches of Miscanthus Violaceus but small open water pools support Nymphaea Nouchali var Caerulea. This wetland system however remains relatively untouched despite the long history of resource extraction by the local communities living around the wetland. The interior of the wetland supports wide communities of Kostchya Species, a common shrub within papyrus swamps.  Besides that, the margins of the swamp also supports other species including Ludwigia abyssinica, Phoenix reclinata, Afromomum sp., Pennisetum purpureum, Cyperus denudatus, Erythrina abyssinica, Alchornea sp., Triumfetta brachyceras, Dissotis trothae and Harungana madagascariensis among others.

The Nabajjuzi wetland is a home to several interesting wildlife species including Sitatunga (scientifically known as Tragelaphus spekei), interesting antelope specie that mainly occupies wetland ecosystem. They are globally threatened and described as species of national importance.

The Nabajjuzi wetland is also an Important Birding Area offering shelter to several threatened and vulnerable species of birds with the notable ones being the rare shoebill stork (also Balaeniceps rex), two other wetland endemic species of birds have been recorded in the wetland system and they include the papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri-near threatened) and the papyrus yellow warbler (Chloropeta gracilirostris, a Lake Victoria Biome species) in addition to being a haven and breeding area to the grey crowned cranes (Balearica regulorum), Uganda’s national bird. In addition to the wildlife and bird species, the Nabajjuzi wetland system is known for two main fish species that are also native to the site and they include Lung fish (Protopterus aethiopicus) and Mud fish (scientifically referred as Clarias mossambicus), which are a main source of proteins for the locals living around the wetland or Masaka Town in general.

However, the Nabajjuzi wetland is faced with several challenges including swamp degradation in its southern part which is mainly occupied by the sub-urban residents of Masaka and neighboring Towns while communities adjacent to the northern part depend on subsistence lifestyles yet both groups usually extract water from the wetland. Not only that, large plant materials especially papyrus reeds are harvested for medicine, thatching and crafts (mats, baskets and chairs). There is also pollution from the tannery found within close proximity of the site occupying about 10 acres of land and its effluents are discharged directly into the wetlands thus leading to loss of biodiversity. Also, the change in water quality is a big threat to the wildlife as well as public health and the communities living close to the wetland draw their water from the same wetland.

Interventions to mitigate these challenges include implementation research and educational activities within the wetland by Nature Uganda because of the fact that the site is an Important Bird Area.  Besides birding, other activities conducted within the wetland system include nature walks and cultural visits to the local communities living around the site.