Promoting eco-tourism to fight environmental degradation

Uganda is regarded as Africa's best destination for birders and other nature enthusiasts. Many of the over 1,000 species of birds are found in wetlands and other protected areas. UNDP is promoting eco-tourism as one of the means of protecting wetland areas while helping communities explore other alternative sources of incomes for sustainable development (Photo: UNDP Uganda/Matthias Mugisha 2012)

Bigodi is one of many villages in Kamwenge district that have an enormous wetland.  With its variety of wildlife comprising eight primate species and more than 200 bird species,  this wetland is an eco-tourism goldmine not just for the local community but for Uganda. 

For a long time however, people in this area did not see the benefits of this place. “Prior to the 1990s, there was no tourism in the Kibale Forest region. The national park itself was used primarily for research with chim­panzees,” says the 2012 UNDP Equator Initiative Case Study Series on Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED) in Uganda.

It took the intervention of organisations like KAFRED to significantly change lives in this part of the country. Formed in 1992 KAFRED uses ecotourism and other environmentally sustainable enterprises to promote biodiversity conservation and community development in the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary.

Key Highlights

  • Bigodi is located in Kamwenge district, Western Uganda.
  • Through this project, about 300 households estimated at an average of 8 people each, making a total of 2,400 have beneficiaries from wetland resource usage.
  • The area receives an average of 4000 foreign tourists every year.

The organisation has over the years harnessed the talents of local farming communities to curb encroachment on the wetlands and to make guided wildlife tours for tourists.  Over the years, the community has been able to benefit from this initiative by raising revenue from their activities. The profits gained from ecotourism activities have been used to construct schools, promote environmental education in the area, starting a loan scheme for local farmer families and supporting a local women’s group that is engaged in producing handicrafts.

In 2010, KAFRED became the first initiative to be awarded the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Equator Prize for a second time, following their commendable work in promoting community-based innovation for ecotourism, conservation and development.

“The initiative has consistently demonstrated the benefits and potentials of community-based innovation for ecotourism, conservation and development, and serves as a role model both within Uganda and internationally,” says the UNDP Equator Initiative Case Study Series.  The Equator Initiative brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.

With funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP offered 30,000 USD to KAFRED through its Small Grants Programme (SGP). This has been used to support documentation and sharing of lessons and best practices with other communities both within and outside of Uganda. The SGP supports interventions which contribute to global environment benefits, sustainable livelihoods, poverty reduction and local empowerment.

All this has been done in conjunction with a number of partners which include: Nature Uganda, Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA),Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda and North Carolina Interna­tional Teaching for the Environment (UNITE), Uganda Tourist Association(UTA), North Carolina Zoo, Ruwenzori Development Foundation, Kibale Fuel Wood Project and the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN).

Through this intervention, the community of Bigodi has tremendously improved. About 300 households estimated at an average of 8 people each, making a total of 2,400 people who have benefitted from wetland resource usage. There are 500 secondary school children and parents and 110 women group members. The area receives an average of 4000 foreign tourists every year.

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