Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
Locals who once opposed gorilla habitat now exert themselves to protect it
This change of attitude is reported in a recent socio-economic study that noted that more than 60 per cent of people in most communities bordering protected areas of gorilla habitat felt they benefited from the forests, and could name several forms of benefit.
Links between Livelihoods and Wildlife
With the efforts of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) - a collaboration of the WWF, African Wildlife Foundation and Fauna and Flora International working with the Uganda Wildlife Authority - multiple-use zones of the forests have been placed under collaborative forest management schemes.
These involve local communities in conservation initiatives and maintain environmentlivelihood linkages. Local people can access the forest for medicinal plants, weaving materials and to place bee hives. They benefit from park and tourism related employment and from tourism-related revenue sharing arrangements with the park authorities.
Strengthening human and social assets
Training and other opportunities have advanced the organising, negotiating and business skills of communities. The case study notes that the largely illiterate people of the area have formed groups which are able to plan, negotiate and implement a wide range of activities. A community owned campsite employing eleven people earned US$70,628 in 2004.
Supporting basic infrastructure and equipment
The campsite has invested its earnings in four schools, a road, a women’s group office and equipment for pineapple growing and beekeeping. Another community has secured sole viewing rights to a gorilla family group, and is negotiating with private interests to invest in tourism operations and services.
Diversifying farm income
Diversifying sources of income is a key element of improving livelihoods in poor communities as it reduces their vulnerability. In addition to developing tourism, IGCP has supported enterprises in beekeeping, rearing pigs, sheep and poultry, and operating small shops. Some 200 women have been supported in growing mushrooms which are marketed locally, and to tourist camps. Tourism income and IGCP funding have connected gravity fed water to two schools, a health centre, seven tourist campsites and 315 households.
These programmes and others to address wild animal depredations on farms are critical in reducing or arresting habitat destruction and poaching in protected areas. Degraded areas are showing signs of regeneration and gorilla populations are growing slowly. IGCP's achievements are also highly significant in that both conservation and human welfare goals are being met in the border areas of three countries that have experienced years of political instability, violence and economic crisis.