The Uganda Wildlife Authority [UWA] has distributed livelihood items to over 800 households living around Rwenzori Mountains National Park to alleviate some of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and dissuade them from engaging in poaching for survival.
According to James Okware, the Senior Warden, Mountain Rwenzori National Park, more than 800 households, whose livelihoods were solely dependent on the park, are struggling to make ends meet following the COVID-19 lockdown and disastrous floods that hit the area in May this year.
Okware noted that the Rwenzori Mountains National Park registered an increased number of poaching cases during COVID-19 lock down.
“We registered 13 cases of poaching from April to June, due to the COVID-19 lockdown: three in Bundibugyo, six in Kabarole and four in Kasese. This is double from the 2-3 cases we used to register each month in the past,” Okware said.
In response, the Rwenzori National Parks donated beehives, garlic, farming equipment and fish fingerlings to members of the community in order to help diversify their sources of income and prevent over-use of wildlife resources.
“We [UWA] have handed over 140 KTB bee hives to 400 porters, guides and cooks from Rwenzori Mountaineering Services and Rwenzori Trekking Services; over 500 kgs of garlic to 10 Resource Use Groups; farming tools to seven Boundary Management Committees… and over 1900 fish fingerings to a community group for two fish ponds, “ Okware revealed.
While handing over the items, he explained that the initiative was meant to strengthen the relationship between the park and communities adjacent to Rwenzori National Parks, improve livelihoods and combat poverty.
”It is not enough to encourage good practice despite structural constraints,” Okware noted. “It is also necessary to tackle these constraints and build a self-perpetuating culture of sustainable land use.”
Alice Natukunda, the Community Conservation Warden, UWA, stressed the role played by the populations neighbouring the Park in ensuring the protection of wildlife both within and outside the park.
“A good working relationship with the neighbouring community enhances Park management,” she said.
She pointed out that the outreach was aimed at communities that were directly benefiting from tourism activities, including: porters, guides and cooks, Boundary Management Committees and Resource Use Groups from Kyarumba, Kilembe, Kisamba, Nyakalengija in Kasese, and Nyakaka and Butyoka in Bunyangabu district.
Lt. Johnson Tashobya, Kasese District Internal Security Officer, asked the beneficiaries to use the items effectively saying that endless conflict in Rwenzori had made the region lag behind in terms of development.
“Put these items to good use, desist from conflicts that yield no fruit and utilize the resources of Rwenzori for positive change,” Tashobya urged.
Yeresi Muhindo, a beneficiary from a Resource User Committee revealed that the COVID-19 restrictions on movement affected her herbal medicine business.
Petero Baluku, one of the cooks, said that the shutdown of the tourism sector during lockdown was the worst experience of his life.
“All my life depended on tourism, but we lost our jobs the very day the lock down was announced. It has not been easy feeding my family and I am not sure that I will be able to send back my children to school,” he said.
Buy your copy of thecooperator magazine from one of our country- wide vending points or an e-copy on emag.thecooperator.news