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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Carbon-binding biomass or a diversity of useful trees? (Counter) topographies of carbon forestry in Uganda

Fischer, Klara; Hajdu, Flora; Kavallin Giertta, Filippa


Tree plantations in low-income countries are emerging as central tools for global climate change mitigation. However, there is growing evidence that focusing on the carbon-binding aspect of trees in such forests often oversimplifies political ecologies and constrains local livelihoods. One reason is a strong reliance on land use maps, leading to monodimensional and disconnected views of landscapes. This study examines one such climate forest, Kachung plantation in Uganda, run by the company Green Resources on land leased from the Ugandan state through its National Forest Authority. The carbon emission reductions are purchased by the Swedish Energy Agency. Drawing on the Katz conceptualisation of countertopographies, we present a 'situated topography' of Kachung based on the experiences of local women. In contrast to the 'distant topography' produced by the actors investing in the project, it reveals a dynamic landscape where women know and use a diversity of local trees and have well-established strategies for regeneration. However, their access to useful trees and farmland is constrained by the plantation, resulting in increased livelihood struggles. In line with Katz, we suggest that producing similar situated topographies for other climate forests can help create strong countertopographies, displaying more diverse, connected and dynamic uses of landscapes than seen from a distance.


Countertopography; Clean Development Mechanism; forestry; degradation; situated knowledge

Published in

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space
2019, Volume: 2, number: 1, pages: 178-199