From Wetland Dependent to Conservation Leader: A Journey of Transformation

In 2010, the Kasheregyenyi Friends Community Group, situated in Kamuganguzi Subcounty, Kabale district, embarked on a transformative journey by joining NatureUganda’s Crane and Wetlands Conservation project. Nestled along the Kiruruma wetland, which stretches from Rwanda and feeds into the Kagera basin, the community had previously drained the wetland to cultivate crops, inadvertently depriving Grey Crowned Cranes of their natural habitat.

‘The group’s enrollment into the project marked as a commitment to conserve Cranes and wetlands. Under the guidance of Jimmy Muheebwa, the project officer at the time, we began actively observing Cranes in their feeding, breeding, and roosting habitats. What started as a curious endeavour soon became a passion, as we embarked on evening walks to witness the graceful movements of these majestic birds. Despite facing scepticism from some fellow community members, we persisted, eventually becoming fervent advocates for Crane and wetland conservation.

Our efforts bore fruit in 2013 when Kasheregyenyi Friends was recognized as one of the top-performing groups in Crane and Wetland activities in Kabale by NatureUganda. This accolade led to conservation agreements, wherein we agreed to cease wetland drainage and reduce crop farming in exchange for livelihood support. Goat rearing was identified as our primary enterprise, and with NatureUganda’s assistance, we received 30 goats. As a committed Crane monitor, I was fortunate to be selected to receive one goat.

Over the years, our goat herd multiplied, presenting challenges in land management. In a strategic move, I opted to exchange the goats for a heifer suited for zero-grazing. This decision proved fruitful, as the heifer provided a steady supply of milk, enabling me to support my family and invest in my children’s education. Despite a setback with the loss of the heifer, its offspring ensured continuity in milk production.

The positive impact of this transformation extended beyond my household. I became actively involved in various committees, including the Kamuganguzi Subcounty – Katuna Town Council Dairy Farmers’ Committee and the Kiruruma Wetland Management Committee. Additionally, I assumed leadership roles within NatureUganda’s Crane Custodians Group, spearheading initiatives to monitor Cranes and raise awareness about wetland conservation.

I am profoundly grateful to NatureUganda for empowering me to transition from wetland dependence to a sustainable livelihood. My journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of conservation efforts, offering hope and inspiration to others seeking positive change.’

By Cadre Busyabiri Byamugisha (in photo above), a Crane custodian.