Conserving the Rwenzoris through Community Based Tourism
The Rwenzori Mountains also known as the Mountains of the Moon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with snowcapped peaks at the equator endowed with rich and unique flora and fauna as well as outstanding scenic beauty. Notable among these are the 994 recorded plant species, 217 bird species, and animal species such as the Rwenzori duiker, Chimpanzee and the African Elephant.
Despite all this, the park is still under appreciated and performs way below its potential in terms of tourism compared to the neighboring National Parks.
Besides this, the park resources are also under pressure due to limited livelihood options and high population growth which increases demand for these resources such as land, water, firewood and food.
It is against this background that WWF UCO with funding from the European Union (EU) and the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) is implementing the Sustainable Financing of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park project to preserve the biodiversity of the park and improve community livelihoods. The project, working closely with Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Wildlife Authority, District Local Governments and other relevant stakeholders, aims to increase tourist numbers by introducing a more diverse range of products, and to ensure that profits from tourism trickle down to local communities. To this effect, the project has supported the development of three new sustainable tourism products. This has been achieved by working with three community based tourism groups.
The Rwenzori Coffee Cup
The fascinating “From the Garden to the Coffee Cup” experience is being offered by Busongora Joint Farmers Association a coffee growing and marketing Association in Kasese District at the foothills of the Mountains. This product offers the tourists a chance to experience the ‘coffee journey’ and those that have taken part have been awed as one Eveline from Belgium remarked “It was an awesome experience; grinding your own coffee on a traditional grinding stone, making the coffee and finally sipping it”
The Chimpanzee Experience
Kinyampanika Chimpanzee Conservation and Development Association (KICHIDA) was initiated by the Abantaghi clan members in Kabarole District whose totem is the chimpanzee are mandated culturally to ensure its welfare. They have contributed greatly to the specie’s conservation and therefore to enhance this effort, WWF is supporting them to develop a chimpanzee tourism trail which is also ideal for bird watching and sightseeing. This is done alongside their “Rwenzori Cultural Tourism Experience”, which mainly showcases the Bakonzo culture.
On the way to the Kilembe circuit of the RMNP, Kyanjuki Handcraft Women’s Association have a booth displaying beautiful assorted crafts made out of both local and recycled materials which include baskets, shopping bags, and jewelry among others. The group was trained in quality craft making, the use of natural dyes and have created links for them to market their products.