Spear headed by FFI – Uganda around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP), the Social Assessment of Protected Areas (SAPA) tool is promising to give informed direction to IGCP’s interventions around Mgahinga national park. SAPA is a tool used to assess community perceptions of protected areas’ impact on livelihoods. It looks at the negative and positive social impacts on the wellbeing of communities living adjacent to protected areas providing an opportunity for stakeholders to suggest appropriate interventions that will address the negative social impacts while strengthening the positive social impacts. Since last year, IGCP a key actor in the implementation of the tool around MGNP has been working closely with FFI – Uganda to collect various data about the attitudes and perception of the community around Mgahinga towards conservation and the park.
“This tool is an inquiry of some sort, to know if the community is happy with the existence of the park and conservation efforts in place. It is largely going to help IGCP to understand how much impact our work is causing on the livelihood and well being of the communities and also give us ideas on how we can shape our actions and involve the communities more in conservation”.
About 374 household heads participated in this assessment that highlighted both positive and negative issues in the community including reduced HWC due to the stone wall, increased establishment of water infrastructure, reduced park visitors due to poor road network around the park, inadequate revenue sharing funds for all the three parishes around MGNP and persistent HWC – crop loss with no direct compensation and safety. The findings from this assessment were shared with key actors in the implementation of this project and several of the actors pledged to address an issue or two, for instance; IGCP pledged to work with local community groups and UWA to establish indigenous erythrina abyscinica to reinforce the stone wall; to support the establishment Human Gorilla (HuGo) teams around MGNP to address the persistent HWC, to facilitate a learning visit of the community members and UWA team to communities around Volcano National Park to learn about integration of trenches and stone wall as a measure against human wildlife conflict.
According to Rogers Niwamanya, the Program Officer at FFI -Uganda, “At the end of the day, SAPA is expected to facilitate better relationship between the Protected Areas and the communities as it brings about community development, improved livelihood, good governance, effective park management and better conservation of the protected areas”.