The best way to make people appreciate conservation is to involve them in
The Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is educating people who live near national
parks in Ugandans on sustainable management of biodiversity. But it is not straightforward success.
For a population that largely relies on farming for livelihood, more people means
more farming, and more farming means more deforestation. This has set wildlife and humans on a deadly collision course.
Since the beginning of 2018, more than five serious animal-human conflict cases have been reported across Uganda’s protected areas. And they have all ended in fatalities on both sides. In Murchison Falls National Park, a leopard mauled and killed a little boy after a baby-sitter left him unattended to.
In another incident, 11 lions were poisoned and killed in Queen Elizabeth National Park by farmers who allege that lions are finishing their livestock. Several other similar cases have gone unreported.
But AWF is upping their ante to try and curb the problem by reminding people of
the collective responsibility for humans to take care of the earth.
In Lake Mburo National Park, AWF has constructed 10 valley dams for
communities around the park. By setting up dams, locals are given optional water sources for their livestock and their own survival.
According to the AWF President Mr. Kaddu Sebunya, the intervention is meant to – among other things – address the problem of water scarcity and tackle the spread of diseases from wildlife to domestic animals and vice-versa.
There has been reported cases of the spread of diseases such as anthrax between the domestic and wild animals in Lake Mburo. By minimizing the cattle grazing inside the park, these cases will reduce.
According to Mr. Johnson Mwebaze (44), one of the beneficiaries of the project, the dams mean that people won’t have to take their livestock to the same waterholes that wildlife goes to. UWA has also been trying to meet their part of the bargain as far as compensation where animals destroy people’s property is concerned.
The Executive Director of UWA Mr. Sam Mwandha, however, implores the
government to support and maintain these initiatives for sustainability. “It doesn’t make sense for AWF and UWA to set up these projects only to cease a few months down the road,” he said.
The dams whose construction was concluded a few weeks back cost Sh15m each. It was funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Uganda Biodiversity Program.
The dams which measure 50mX50m (width) and three meters (depth) have already come in handy, harvesting rainfall as drinking water for cattle. Over 400 pastoral households live in this community whose population is estimated by UWA to be over 13,000.
The other area that AWF and UWA is working on is creating solid and trustable communication channels in which the park authorities and the local people can share information going forward.
Founded in 1961, AWF is a continental conservation organization whose prime
objective is protecting large landscapes in a way that benefits wildlife and people