Gaining support for conservation is not simply a question of ensuring that local communities derive a financial benefit from conservation activities. It also involves forging and strengthening links with local populations through broader initiatives that address issues such as public health, environmental education and human-wildlife conflict resolution. IGCP works with the park authorities in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to develop a more inclusive approach to conservation and park management.
In all three countries, crop raiding by buffalo, elephant and, more rarely, gorillas is increasing. One such incident in Rwanda led to an elephant being shot dead by police.
To address the specific issue of gorillas leaving the parks and crop raiding, IGCP has developed the human-gorilla conflict resolution (HUGO) programme, recruiting people from the villages to function as “quick response” teams and herd gorillas back into the forest.
The programme, operating around BINP, is a collaborative voluntary programme of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the Local governments, the affected forest edge communities and IGCP that identifies the proximate and ultimate causes of the conflict between human beings and gorillas in the areas where gorillas come out of the park, conducts research on methodologies for land-use changes and develops appropriate and effective responses to incidents of the conflict.
Prevention of crop raiding is achieved through a variety of means.
In DRC and Rwanda, for example, with support from IGCP, park staff and local communities have been building a dry stone wall (one meter high and one meter thick) around the park perimeter. Building the wall has been a positive step toward reducing conflict between the park and the community as buffalo no longer raid crops and people are able to cultivate field closer to park boundary; thus increased crop production and increasing income. The record harvest in areas already protected by the new wall has encouraged local communities to extend the project. Construction of the buffalo wall around PNV began in October 2002, and to date 76.32km has been built, there remains only 800m to complete the wall plus fencing of 29 gullies that requires special techniques to close them. In MGNP the buffalo wall was initiated by Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe (BRD) in 1993/94 using plants (Erythrina abyssinica and Solanum spp) as a deterrent for the buffalo raiding crops. Where this intervention could not be applied a stone wall was constructed instead.
In 1995, CARE Uganda supported the extension of the wall as assistance to the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Then in 2004/05, IGCP supported building the wall along the Uganda DRC border. The wall is currently almost complete, there is only a short section remaining toward the border with Rwanda. Around Mikeno sector (PNVi) construction of the wall began in 2002, the wall currently extends for 52km, leaving only 400m which will be completed by mid 2007. The next step for the wall around Mikeno sector is to extend the height from 1m to 1.5 m.
As part of its conservation education programme in Rwanda, IGCP has helped the park authorities to identify community members who act as local ‘ambassadors’ or Animateurs de la Conservation (ANICOs), helping local conservation organizations to spread the conservation message throughout the communes bordering the park. ANICOs have received training on the importance of the environment, the ecological value of the forest and its links to human livelihoods.
Local schools have expressed interest in forging closer links with the national park and sought help in developing teaching materials. In the DRC, IGCP works very closely with the WWF Programme Environnementale des Virunga (PEVi), to ensure a strong and coordinated approach.
In Uganda, IGCP is helping to develop a community tourism venture at Buhoma. The community campground is located downstream from a series of lodges, creating the risk of water contamination. The programme has therefore been working with the Buhoma community and developed a water gravity scheme that will guarantee the availability of clean water. Health monitoring also helps to minimize the risk of transmitting diseases to the gorilla groups.
Through its Public Health & Conservation project, IGCP has provided training for the local communities to help them understand the links between disease, waste management and conservation (see Threats).
In the Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area, IGCP is also collaborating with Conservation Through Public Health. The mission of CTPH is “to promote conservation and public health by improving primary health care to people and animals in and around protected areas in Africa”.
In 2002 a Community Conservation Workshop, facilitated by the PEVi WWF project and supported by IGCP, was held in DRC. It developed a strategy and identified key activities for local community integration in park management. Participants included representatives from park headquarters, government officials, NGO partners and members of local communities from around all five World Heritage Sites in eastern DRC.
In the five Districts around round Parc National des Volcans, IGCP has been working with the local government and communities to develop a community based natural resource management (CBNRM) plan that will provide a road map for integrating conservation in the community activities and supporting conservation enterprises. The CBNRM plan seeks 1) to minimise threats on natural resources and to guarantee the long-term integrity of the Parc National des Volcans, 2) to optimise the use of natural resources, 3) to resolve conflicts over natural resources, and 4) to elaborate an institutional framework to manage natural resources.
The overall objective is to guarantee the sustainable future of the human population and its natural environment.