In its on-going attempt to document lessons learned in conservation enterprises and development integration around the world from the USAID funded initiatives, Bwindi was selected as one of the sites to be documented. Between 2003 and 2007 IGCP with support from USAID implemented a project “Achieving conservation and economic goals through ecotourism” around Bwindi and Volcanoes national parks. The project whose purpose was to improve the livelihoods of people as an incentive to integrate them in conservation ventures supported organized community groups with conservation enterprises like, mushroom growing, bee keeping, eco-lodges – Clouds and Buhoma community camp, local artisans – basketry and Rubuguli cultural center among others.
Working with the IGCP tourism specialist, Salvatrice Musabyeyezu and Uganda country coordinator, Henry Mutabaazi, two USAID consultants Judith Boshoven of Foundations for success and Jason Houston a professional photographer visited the different projects in Rubuguli, Buhoma, Nkuringo and Ikumba. The main objective of this field visit was to explore the assumptions that were made in the beginning of the project and how they have changed, the lessons learned on what worked and what didn’t, the success stories, challenges and probably the current status of the groups and their projects. The findings will be compiled for sharing with other USAID supported partners.
Interestingly the team learnt that some of the projects still existed although struggling with lack of market for their enterprises, while some had failed either due to poor internal governance issues or lack of adequate capital to sustain them. One of the key lessons learnt during the impact measurement exercise was that communities if empowered have the capacity to sustain conservation enterprises with minimal external support. According to Henry this guarantees sustainability of the habitat and wildlife because of the continued benefits accruing from the enterprises.
A report and video from this impact measurement exercise will be shared with IGCP when they are ready.