By Gloria Nakiyimba
Uganda Wildlife Authority –UWA has today handed over cheques worth UGX 4,479,575,644 to communities surrounding Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area.
While handing over the cheque to the district leaders of Kisoro, Kanungu and Rubanda at the Bwindi Conservation Area under the revenue sharing scheme , Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu appealed to the communities and leaders to support efforts of fighting illegal activities in protected areas.
“We are giving this money in recognition of the important role that communities play in our conservation efforts; we believe that we cannot effectively conserve wildlife without the support of the communities. I want to use this opportunity to thank you all for rallying behind UWA in conserving the two gorilla parks. It is my humble appeal to you that you continue with this support to conservation and ensure that all forms of illegal wildlife activities, are eliminated” he said.
The money will be used to finance a total of 76 projects: 17 in Kisoro, 24 in Rubanda and 35 projects in Kanungu. Four community camp sites will be funded in Bujengwe, Mpungu, Ruhija Sub County and Karangara.
One community Resource Center in Mukono Parish, Kayonza Sub County will also be set up using some of the cash and once completed, the community tourism camp sites will generate more revenue from the increasing tourism business to the community.
Prof. Kamuntu noted that government appreciates the contribution of communities neighboring protected areas in the conservation of wildlife in Uganda.
According to minister Kamuntu,the money disbursed under the revenue sharing scheme keeps on increasing because of the ever increasing number of tourists who visit the parks to track gorillas and urged them to work closely with the park management by ensuring that wrong elements do not infiltrate parks so that visitor numbers keep on swelling.
“The revenue share to the Districts will continue to increase, in response to the increasing number of tourists who come to our protected areas. I would like to appeal to everyone to play their role to ensure the parks and their surroundings do not get infiltrated by wrong elements that can cause insecurity” Kamuntu reiterated.
UWA Executive Director Sam Mwandha emphasized the benefits to the community from wildlife conservation saying, “today is very historic moment when we celebrate another important milestone in our effort for sustainable wildlife conservation. In line with the UWA mission, I am pleased with the release of yet another sum of these funds which include 20% park entry fees and $10 per gorilla tracking permit sold in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park,”
He said this money will improve the livelihoods of communities and alleviate poverty. He called for adequate monitoring of the fund so that they are put to good use. “With adequate monitoring, it is our hope that the funds will be put to good use and be spent in accordance with the approved projects so that the benefit the intended people” he said.