In Africa, much of the conservation of wildlife and Protected Areas started using strict law enforcement and keeping people out of protected areas. This was a fairly successful strategy but with time as human populations increased it became harder to enforce the law and has been increasingly considered ‘uncaring’. Uganda is one of the World’s poorest countries with the average person living on $120 per month with people in northern and eastern Uganda living on only $60 per month. Family sizes average about 6-8people with increasing fragmentation of farmland taking place as land is passed on to children. Uganda has one of the fastest population growth rates in the World at 3.1%/yr and has also been heavily impacted by HIV AIDS which it has been fairly effective at tackling.
Uganda has been at the forefront of trialing and testing community conservation methods in and around its protected areas, with several incentives and mechanisms being developed. These include supporting local communities through training in improved farming, building schools and clinics, sharing 20% of park gate receipts with communities so they can develop their own projects, working to reduce wildlife raiding of crops,and allowing controlled access to some resources in the Protected Areas. The thinking behind these projects is that by helping the people who live adjacent to the parks, people who tend to be poorer, that they will support the conservation of the Protected Areas and work to stop illegal activities. This would mean that the Protected Area authorities could reduce the budgets they spend on law enforcement and potentially put more into local community projects. Interestingly when some of the first parks were created in Uganda,such as Queen Elizabeth Park, there was a system established to share meat from regular culls of the large mammals, particularly hippopotamuses. So this support to the community is not a totally new idea.
WCS’ work with human livelihoods in Uganda
WCS is supporting various projects to work with communities living near Protected Areas. Some have been research focused to test some of the assumptions community conservation makes and others have been direct support to projects that help people improve their livelihoods.
Measuring the impacts of community conservation: WCS supported a project managed through the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC) in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to measure the impacts of community conservation initiatives that had been trialled here. Projects that have been tested include: improved farming methods, allowing access to the forest for beekeeping and medicinal plant harvesting, sharing 20% of gate revenues for community projects, establishment of a trust fund to support community projects such as clinics and schools, creating a team of people to reduce gorilla crop-raiding and education programs.
The results of the survey showed that there had been significant improvements in local people’s attitudes towards the park and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) as a result of these projects, but also showed that the level of illegal activities had not changed. This meant that attitudes were changing but not behaviors. Further research showed that this was because the people engaging in illegal activities were the poorest people who did not have land (so could not benefit from better farming), could not afford to use schools or clinics and were not influential enough in the community to obtain access rights to the park. This is leading to a more targeted community conservation approach to reach these households.
A similar study by the African Wildlife Foundation around Lake Mburo showed comparable results: attitudes were changing, but behaviors were not.
Engaging pastoralists near Queen Elizabeth National Park: WCS has been working with Basongora pastoralists around Queen Elizabeth National Park to help improve their rangeland and also assess their water supply needs. These pastoralists bring their livestock into the park to graze and to water them because they do not have sufficient rangeland outside the park. Additionally, people have been diverting streams for irrigation and as a result water does not flow to their lands in the dry season. We have been helping them remove invasive Lantana,a shrub that has taken over large areas of their rangeland: in the long-term this will enable them to graze their livestock outside the park boundaries. We intend to raise funds to improve access to water for the people and their livestock and are working on mechanisms to reduce livestock loss from lions and other predators. This includes installing solar lighting in villages, and creating mechanisms to compensate for livestock losses such as raising funds from experiential tourism with lions.
Assisting farmers in the Murchison-Semliki Landscape: WCS and several NGO partners and the District Authorities are working with farmers who own natural forest on their land in the Murchison-Semliki Landscape . We aim to create incentives to support the conservation of key forest corridors linking the larger forest reserves in the landscape. We have been looking at options for REDD+, improved farming including agroforestry and diversification of livelihoods so that farmers are not reliant on one source of income. We are also creating access to micro-credit schemes to help them obtain tenure for their land.
Supporting communities in the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve: WCS secured support through the USAID WILD project to work with communities next to the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Our aim was to reduce pressure on natural resources and elicit community support for conservation efforts. We engaged in environmentally friendly tourism-related enterprises to generate income.Working with UWA, we engaged a Peace Corps volunteer to facilitate the development of selected enterprises such as: beekeeping, art and crafts, music,dance and drama. Community products are branded and marketed through the Karugutu Community Conservation Association (KCCA) comprised of participating community members. KCCA now sells crafts and honey to different companies and individuals and is often invited to perform music, dance and plays for tourists and at government functions. Environmental education is always the key theme.As part of this initiative, we also supported the education of children in schools in Northern Uganda through the Wildlife Clubs of Uganda and established methods to reduce crop-raiding by wildlife, such as digging trenches and setting up chilli barriers at protected area boundaries.
Reintegrating Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): Uganda suffered decades of conflict, which ravaged much of northern Uganda until the mid-2000s. Many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in government protected camps returned to their homes in northern Uganda following the end of the conflict, seeking to generate an income. Natural resource assets provide easy access to cash for these people, but the manner in which these resources are used is not sustainable. This poses a threat not only to the long-term livelihood options for people, but also to the survival of biodiversity. In addition to a range of livelihood interventions, WCS is working with other partners to conduct feasibility studies of selected natural resource based economic activities in northern Uganda. These include:
a. A feasibility study on carbon finance for tree growers. This included an assessment of socioeconomic needs, biomass, training and financing aspects of community-based tree planting schemes as an extension of the Trees for Global Benefits Programme;
b. A northern Uganda tourism study to gauge and document the tourism potential of northern Uganda and to promote its development and expansion. We focused on untapped or underutilized attractions such as the great scenic attractions in Karamoja as well as aspects of the Nile River;
c. An energy efficiency study to assess the opportunities for improving energy efficiency in northern Uganda because the majority of people in this region depend upon firewood and charcoal as a source of energy and thus impact the wooded landscape.