Empowering communities for sustainable alternative livelihoods to cope with Covid-19 crisis

Environment Governance Institute
Published: 11 February 2022
Last edited: 25 February 2022
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Summary

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, over 90 % of the community members, living around the Murchison Falls Protected Areas, made an income from tourism related activities. Even the Uganda State as a whole was relying very much on tourism contributing to 7.9 percent to the GDP in 2019.

As a direct consequence of the tourism shutdown, local villagers went in the Protected Area to hunt for bush meat, find food, cut down tree cover for charcoal and find other resources for income.

The Environment Governance Institute (EGI) team has been working towards sustainably diversifying livelihoods to build resilience among local communities and awareness raising activities, that got eventually a large attention in the media. Thanks to a well-articulated combination of actions and supportive partnerships, local communities were able to overcome the challenges brought by the pandemic and improve their livelihoods, with a highly positive consequence on the Protected Area’s integrity.

Classifications

Region
East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Subnational
Ecosystem
Forest ecosystems
Temperate evergreen forest
Tropical evergreen forest
Theme
Ecosystem services
Mitigation
Poaching and environmental crime
Restoration
Challenges
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of food security
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy
SDG 13 – Climate action
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction

Location

Murchison Falls National Park, Albertine Graben Western Uganda

Challenges

  • Lack of diversified livelihoods for local communities, relying almost only on tourism
  • Dramatic increase of encroachment in the Protected Area during the pandemic
  • Limited resources from government to respond to encroachment crisis as economy was affected

Beneficiaries

  • Local communities in the five districts of Hoima, Masindi, Bullisa, Kiryandongo and Kibale around Murchison Falls green belt
  • Murchison Falls Protected Area management team

How do the building blocks interact?

On the one hand, local communities, through village champions, were trained and supported to set up households businesses, as bee keepers or commercial farmers, building on what people used to do, but improving the marketing and packaging, as well as the management and the techniques used. It ensured an increase of income, which had a direct effect on reducing greatly poaching in the Protected Area. On the other hand, local communities groups engaged in art activities, spread powerful messages among their peers, to promote conservation. Communities’ bylaws reflect their will to respect the Murchinson Falls Protected Area’s fauna and flora integrity. Additional actors, as diverse as the local authorities, the medias and the Telecom company, all contributed to reinforce the success of the different strategic actions that we implemented.

Impacts

The level of encroachment dropped dramatically from 32 to 6 cases in 12 months.

Diversified livelihoods successfully implemented to support an increased number of community members, e.g. 366 households trained in bee keeping (200 bee hives were provided), 612 community members have adopted improved agricultural land use practices resistant to climate change. The general income of community households have increased and their businesses became also more resilient.

The training and involvement of young people in art performances, to raise awareness on the link between the biodiversity conservation and human livelihoods got the attention from the media. The drama groups are now often hired to perform, as they deliver strong messages on biodiversity benefits and how to live in harmony with wildlife.

The relationship between the local communities and the Uganda Wildlife Authority has improved; the authority uses less the force to reinforce the Protected Areas law.

A set of by-laws to regulate the activities in the Protected Areas were drafted and agreed upon by the local communities and endorsed by the District leaders.

Story

EGI

Mr. Kwikiriza Tickey is the lead singer and a chairperson of the Friends of Chimpanzee drama group.

It is located within the chimpanzee corridor connecting Bugoma and Budongo forest reserves within Murchison falls National Park. The group arose out of the need to reverse community revenge on chimpanzees who started invading their settlements destroying crops and homesteads. The communities did not know that their actions of encroaching on the chimpanzees habitat for firewood and building materials were responsible for the negative impact.

The group comprises 25 members (16 males and 11 females) and use primary local tools to generate music, dance and drama to sensitize communities on how to live in harmony with nature. Today, the group’s impact has been powerful in changing the community mindset and enhanced chimpanzee conservation.

Please look at the music clip of their song “Let’s preserve nature” in the video link in the resources below. The lyrics of the song in English are the following:

Let us protect nature and not destroy the environment, it provides for our livelihoods and supports us in different ways.

The forest, lakes, and swamps work together to give us fresh air, the food we eat, and also provide shelter to our ancestors the chimpanzees.

The scholars and researchers said we evolved from chimpanzees that’s why they eat, move, dance, and play like us.

You see how we dance, that’s how they also dance in the forest when they are happy. Don’t destroy their home and make them unhappy. We should protect them as they form our history. We are friends of chimpanzees, forest and other animals.

We should not destroy the forest by cutting down trees because they are also our spiritual home, our parents used to pray in these forests and they got blessings, why should we destroy the things our parents used to treasure.

Even today the trees you are seeing provide us with nice shades, the trees do support us with rainfall formation that we depend on for planting our crops such as Matooke (bananas), sweet potatoes, sorghum.

I have heard people complain that the animals come and destroy our crops and our homes, but it’s because we have destroyed their homes, let’s ensure they have a home and they will not come to our homes.

Nature is so expensive, see if we destroy it but very beautiful if we conserve it.

We have advised you to protect nature, do not destroy the wildlife.

I have advised you all, you also go and tell others. Nature is our livelihood, let’s protect it!

Contributed by

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Samuel Okulony Environment Governance Institute