Wildlife is Uganda’s biggest draw and throughout history it has attracted wealthy travellers from epic hunting safaris to the devastating ivory trade through to modern day safari holidays and wildlife photographers and filmmakers. Thankfully, Ugandan government through its Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) recognises that wildlife has a considerably greater value alive than dead, and the creation of national parks and wildlife reserves has generated a number of success stories across the country, from the reintroduction of Rhinoceros at the Zziwa Rhino sanctuary to the significant reduction of wildlife poaching across national parks.
These benefits across the country are not necessarily shared with the local people. In many cases local communities are the ones who face the “opportunity cost” of living near wildlife parks. Such opportunity costs include suffering damage to their crops or livestock as a result of increased wildlife or the loss of access to natural resources such as bamboo, honey, fish or wood which are essential components of their daily lives. The government promise to share benefits with local people has in many ways failed to materialise at least not to adequate compensations for what may have been lost.
The damage is twofold. People living around the parks continue to plunge deeper into poverty, while indigenous groups such as the Karamojong and Batwa face the very real prospect of losing their traditional way of life, skills and rituals that have been part of their culture for centuries. Secondly, wildlife is lost. Animals suspected of raiding crops or killing livestock may be shot or poisoned, while hungry communities may illegally hunt bushmeat to sell or to feed their families. Without receiving any benefit from living alongside wildlife, they may turn to poaching or at the very least, turn a blind eye to illegal activities taking place in the parks and buffer zones. The fact is simply that without community involvement and integration, wildlife conservation cannot be successful in the long term.
What we do
Fortunately, in many destinations where Ujambo Boots operates it aims to recognise the locals get them involved in conservation efforts and in tourism. One of the keys to this has been the concept of Hamjambo-Ujambo:
This program involves the community locating land to Ujambo safari operators for camping activities for a fixed period of time, meaning the communities don’t just benefit from wildlife tourism but also have control over it. In the future Ujambo plans to handle over some camps to the communities themselves so as to give them even greater control.
Further, bush walks on this land involves a community guide, and visitors are encouraged to learn as much about the community through workshops, conversations, performances and demonstrations as they do about the wildlife. There is also a much greater transparency in the redistribution of the fees and lease money paid to the landowners which is usually reinvested in the land and the community.
What you can do
Staying in a community on our camps within a community run land, has a far greater impact on conservation than you may think as well as contributing to community development. Who else can better teach you about the East African savannah or tropical forest life than a native Karamojong or Batwa guide respectively?