NatureUganda together with Uganda Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (U-PCLG) organised a public talk on ‘Biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation’. The main speaker Ms Mariel Harrison of the Imperial College London gave a presentation highlighting the inter-linkages between conservation and poverty reduction in and around conservation areas/protected areas using Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (BINP) as a case study in Uganda. Follow the link for her presentation (PDF). 

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in south-west Uganda is an important area for biodiversity. Crucially, it’s the one and only home to Uganda’s population of highly-endangered Mountain Gorillas who face extinction. 

When the national park was set up by an act of parliament in 1991, it caused high levels of conflict and resistance from local people who became excluded from the area and its resources. As a result, in the years that followed, a number of ‘integrated conservation and development’ (ICD) interventions were carried out to reduce conflict by improving the livelihoods of communities living around Bwindi National Park. For example, activities such as tourism bring in significant amounts of revenue of which 20% goes to the community, and also provide employment opportunities.  

In 2010, the UN General Assembly emphasised linkages between biodiversity conservation and poverty by claiming that ‘preserving biodiversity is inseparable from the fight against poverty’. Biodiversity conservation that contributes towards poverty alleviation is a priority under the 2011–2020 Strategic Plan for the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD). Protected areas are important for CBD signatories to deliver this objective and the 10th Conference of Parties encouraged members to ‘support initiatives on the role of protected areas in poverty alleviation’.

The discussant Mr Ronald Kaggwa Kiragga of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) said that there are contradictions of conservation in this country. He added that there is inequitable distribution of costs of conservation. The costs of conservation are high and yet the poor are the ones that bear all these costs. He highlighted that tourism revenue is growing but the people living around Protected Areas (PAs) are growing poorer adding that poverty of the communities neighbouring protected areas is a threat to conservation. He mentioned that conservationists have failed to turn these natural resources into incomes. Do our national policies reflect conservation and poverty reduction? He further mentioned that It is our role as conservationists to reduce the threats to conservation by, for example, providing meaningful interventions otherwise conservation remains a challenge. He pointed out that 20% tourism revenue sharing is good but not enough. He added that remoteness and lack of markets are some of the root causes of poverty in conservation areas and that this should also be addressed. 

Despite recent interventions aimed at improving the livelihoods of communities in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda, the illegal use of the park’s resources continues. 

A research was conducted to improve the effectiveness of Integrated Conservation and Development (ICD) interventions in linking conservation with poverty alleviation and to promote a greater understanding of links between protected area conservation and poverty alleviation. The assessment carried out looked at Integrated Conservation and Development (ICD) strategies in Uganda, including in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, this confirmed that linking local people to a resource that generated a steady stream of benefits increased their willingness to manage and protect that resource over the long-term. But there was inconclusive evidence that providing alternative livelihoods was an effective strategy for conserving natural resources and alleviating poverty, and the illegal use of the park’s natural resources continues. Mr Medard Twinamatsiko, a researcher, said that our problem in Uganda is not policy but the proper practice of the policies. The Research to Policy report on Linking Conservation, Equity and Poverty Alleviation was launched. 

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