Commenting on the expected project outputs, the IGCP tourism specialist, Salvatrice Muzabeyezu, expresses optimism about the projects ability to improve community livelihoods and conservation; “A project that is pro-poor is strategic and relevant. I am hopeful that if well implemented household incomes and awareness on gorilla conservation will increase, while the quality of tourism products will improve and more market will be secured both locally and internationally” says Salvatrice.
IGCP in collaboration with International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) with funding from Darwin Initiative has launched a three year project “Local economic development through pro-poor gorilla tourism in Uganda.” The project proposes to increase local revenue from tourism around Bwindi to alleviate poverty, improve people’s attitude towards conversation and reduce threats to gorillas. Precisely the project seeks to address some of the findings of the study on Linking Conservation, Equity and Poverty Alleviation: Understanding profiles and motivations of resource users and local perceptions of governance at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda (http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/14630IIED.pdf) conducted by IIED in 2014.
Among others, the project will empower the communities (through training) to produce quality tourism products and expand the market for these products among tourists at both local and international levels. This project will also work closely with Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network in product standardization to ensure the quality of products and linkage to conservation. Product standardization is also expected to guide the tourists on what goods and services to buy/consume.
In the month of September, the project team conducted a scoping visit around Bwindi to assess tourism initiatives around Bwindi, the community groups involved, what they do, the existing gaps and how they can be filled.About sixty (60) community groups were met and interacted with in the villages of Buhoma, Ruhija and Rubuguri; the team also met and discussed with the local authorities and UWA. The interactions with the different groups and leaders above revealed that there is too much to do in terms of improving the quality of tourism products (handcrafts and agriculture products), marketing the products, collaboration among groups and handling/guiding tourists – a lot of un-professionalism was noted in this area.
Other partners involved in this project include Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC), Responsible Tourism Partnership, Uganda Wildlife Authority, local government authorities and the community groups involved in the production of tourism products.