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Benefiting from community-based tourism: Conservationist asks Nwoya residents to form cooperatives

NWOYA, April 15, 2024 – The Chief Warden for Murchison Falls National Park, Wilson Kagoro has challenged the communities neighboring the park in Nwoya district to form cooperatives if they are to benefit from the community-based tourism initiative launched recently in the district.

The community-based tourism initiative, which comprises culture and nature conservation is expected to bring many benefits to the locals neighbouring the park.

The initiative was launched on Friday in Purongo Cultural Centre in Nwoya district, aims at promoting conservation of the wildlife species, especially animals killed by the poachers.

The Chief Administrative Officer Nwoya Jennifer Nantume noted that the concept of community-based tourism was arrived at to sensitise the locals on the importance of conservation of nature.

“We sold this concept to Operation Wealth Creation for partnership and we want to appreciate that Gen. Salim Saleh who is the National Coordinator of the programme was able to support the process of this community-based tourism,” said Nantume.

She further explained that the tourism sector remains one of key sectors in Uganda which employs 14. 7 percent of Ugandans, adding that conservation of biodiversity will transform the country’s economy.

“Prosperity and growth start with mindset change and I want to challenge the people of Acholi to sustainably use their rich cultures through tourism and make money from,” she added.

Under community-based tourism, the locals will showcase their traditional dances, traditional foods, drama and storytelling among others to the foreigners who often visit Murchison Falls National Park.

Some of crafts showcased during the launch of community based tourism in Purongo Cultural Centre in Nwoya district (Photo by Simon Wokorach).

On his part, the Nwoya District Tourism Officer, Filder Akech is hopeful that the initiative will promote peaceful co-existence between people and wild animals and reduce conflicts and poaching.

Amidst legal instruments for protecting wildlife species, she noted that poaching remained challenging which she said affect the revenue sharing from the park.

“We have been receiving less money from the revenue sharing but we think that once we conserve these animals, the revenue will increase which this initiative shall address,” she said.

Nwoya district from 2021 to 2023 received a share of Shs 2.22 billion as part of the tourist receipts from Murchison Falls Park. The district authorities used the money to rehabilitate roads, schools and construction of a cultural centre among others.

Meanwhile, Kagoro noted that once the community forms cooperatives, they shall have strong bargaining power to promote cultural tourism.

He explained that the foreigners who travel to Uganda are not only interested in wildlife but culture which the people of Acholi have not taken advantage of with their rich cultural heritage.

“Those visitors are interested in traditional dances, food and crafts and they will leave money here but only when the people here are organized but culture complements nature,” he explained.

For his part, Walter Odokorwoat, the Executive Director of Umoja Conservancies of Uganda, a local conservation agency noted that there is a need to empower the communities around the protected area so that they can benefit from their co-existence with wildlife through community-based tourism.

He argued that the locals can conserve wildlife on their private land where tourists can directly travel to and pay them money.

When animals are conserved on private land, he noted, the locals can get a maximum of 100 percent share of the fees from tourists. He said if this is implemented, it can significantly improve the livelihoods of the locals.

“We are looking at the community who will in a long run begin to conserve those animals on their private lands and we need to put the land use in that manner that supports both farming and conservation,” he noted.

Talking to this reporter, the locals living near the protected area welcomed the initiative of community-based tourism, saying it will improve their livelihoods.

Geoffrey Okello, the chairperson of Lubanga Miyo Arts and Craft Association in Got Apwoya Sub-county was hopeful that their products will get to market which has been a problem for long.

Christine Ajok from Lyec Cam village in Purongo town council, and has been selling traditional food to the travelers, said community-based tourism will help women in organised groups to sell more traditional food to the visitors.

Murchison Falls National Park sits on the shore of Lake Albert, in northwest Uganda. It’s known for Murchison Falls, where the Victoria Nile River surges through a narrow gap over a massive drop. Park wildlife includes elephants and hippos, and there are chimpanzees in the Kaniyo Pabidi mahogany forest. The Lake Albert Delta is home to rare shoebill storks. There are game fish in the cascades of Karuma Falls.

A group of reformed poachers sensitising community on the dangers of poaching through music, dance and drama, during the launch on community-based tourism days ago (Photo by Simon Wokorach).

Meanwhile, on April 11, 2024, the Members of Parliament while responding to the Ministerial Policy Statement of the Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry that was adopted during plenary raised concerns on the underbudgeting to the tourism sector despite its significant contribution to the national economy.

The Committee noted that the National Development Plan III which targeted 281,760 international tourist arrivals from America, Europe and China only registered 67,252 arrivals by the end of the first half of financial year 2023/2024 in the report that was presented to the Parliament.

The Omoro District Woman Member of Parliament and the committee’s deputy chairperson Catherine Lamwaka who presented the report noted that, whereas Uganda Tourism Board [UTB] requires Shs 4 billion to promote the country’s image, it was never prioritised in the 2024/2025 financial year national budget.

The committee tasked the government to provide the money needed by UTB to engage international and national media houses in the production positive stories about Uganda, especially on its tourist various attractions.

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