Uganda; Sustainable Tourism

Welcome to Uganda. [drums play; people sing
in Ugandan language] ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ (woman) Production funding
is provided by the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Manitoba through a UPCD grant from Canadian International Development Agency and AUCC, and by the members
of Prairie Public I’m currently wrapping up a
6-year CITA Project in Uganda, where we’re working to enhance rural livelihoods with sustainable tourism. Agriculture has always been the number one industry in Uganda, but tourism is
a very close number two. The concept is
that by providing incomes based on the wildlife capital
of Uganda, local people will generate income and therefore, support conservation initiatives in the country. Since I’ve been coming
to Uganda, I’ve been able to witness a significant amount of deforestation. Certainly my first trip here,
I remember seeing primary rainforest almost, almost all the way from Mubende to Fort Portal. On my most recent trip, pretty much
all of that primary rainforest is gone and turned over
to cropland. Now, I can’t speak for how far beyond the road that extends, but it certainly extends
as far as the eye can see, and it seems to be having a significant effect
on the weather, the climate, it seems to be
the rainy seasons have changed, people are saying it’s hotter, they can’t count on the rains, and it’s having
significant impact on people’s livelihoods as well. To think about how much rainforest this country’s lost, and how many wildlife have disappeared as a result of it and the threat that it puts on the wildlife that remains, because essentially they’re
now contained within small islands of habitat that they can’t really escape from. As soon as they leave
those islands of habitat, they’re on cropland and they may be killed as pests. So it creates
very strong stresses on the wildlife populations. So generating income
from wildlife and showing that wildlife
can help people improve their standard of living is really important. But it is really important that the local people benefit. I mean this,
there’s a real inequitable distribution of costs and benefits when we talk about wildlife conservation globally. Typically the benefits are accrued in a very general sense to the Western world where we want to save the rainforest, where we want to see wildlife species preserved forever. And yet the costs of preserving them are absorbed locally by the farmers and
the small-scale individuals in these developing countries, as it sometimes limits their ability to develop
and do what they want to do. We currently have
3 community projects. They’re in various stages
of development. The first community that we defined the project for was Ruhija in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. We were actually doing an analysis in Winnipeg, trying to determine which communities we were going to be working with,
when we received a phone call from Uganda Wildlife Authority letting us know that Ruhija was going to be opened up for gorilla tourism. It’s really quite
an exciting opportunity, really, nothing quite like it. I think it’s really important that people think, you know, why am I paying this amount
of money to see gorillas? Well, there’s really, there’s one gorilla on the planet for every
ten million human beings, just to give people a sense of how rare they actually are. Ruhija had previously
not had any tourists other than a few birders
coming through. Tourists didn’t stay there,
and we knew that once gorillas were habituated in the area
and tourists started coming, there’d be a bit of a land rush. So we immediately engaged
the community saying what is it you’d like to do
as a tourism initiative? And through a process of a number of community meetings, group workshops, we came to
the concept that the first thing
we would fund would be a community-tented
camp. The largest
is the Ruhija Gorilla Friends Community Rest Camp, which was the first one
to be funded. As a condition of funding,
20% ownership of the Gorilla Friends
Tented Camp belongs to the community
at large to help fund other initiatives
in the community. When we first engaged
the community, and the discussion came up
that they wanted to provide hospitality
and housing for tourists coming to
the community, they’d run off and built a couple of concrete block structures that were really local type of accommodation, the kind of thing you would see in Uganda as a local hotel, that locals would use, but really entirely unsuitable to the tourist market. So we worked with them,
we took them on a number
of familiarization tours, where we took them
to other tented camps, and throughout that process, their eyes were really opened as to the kind of accommodation that the tourists would be looking for,
would appreciate, and what they might be able
to provide to them as well. (Michael)
People expected immediate returns, and so it’s easy to get a little bit pessimistic about the possibilities, the outcomes, and how things
will come to fruition. And I guess if anything surprised me, it was how quickly that opposition was overcome. Once we finally had the Ruhija Gorilla Friends Group contributing that 20% that’s owned by the community back to community initiatives, we saw some really
rapid transformation. Really heartening to see it happen, because now we know the community really supports the initiative and they’re working hard
to make other endeavors work. (Michael)
In 2008,
the tented camp finally opened. In it’s first year,
being a short year, it only opened in November, so we had November, December, they had 24 visitors. In 2009 they had
86 visitors and in 2010, the last year for which I have figures, they had 314 visitors, so they’re doing quite well. And if you consider how much money is generated by this particular initiative– Uganda generally, average annual income is around 200 U.S. dollars per year. They generate $50 per person
per night at the tented camp, and if you have 300 nights
and you do the math, you can figure out that’s a substantial amount of income for people living
in a rural community. Just this past November,
the first installment, 20%, went back to the larger community group. So they’re now at the stage where they’ve been able to reinvest
in their tented camp, they were able to add
a number of developments that we hadn’t
first initiated ourselves, they’re building
a new self-contained tent, which means it will have its
own washroom, shower facility, they’ve built a couple
of new water tanks, they’ve built a water heater and a gravity feed for the shower. So things are moving along
quite well. Beyond the actual tented camp that was developed
in partnership with the Ruhija Gorilla
Friends Group, we’re starting to see
downstream linkages. We’re starting to see
some of the supply chain in terms of food and other goods developing within the community. So the community members
who may not be engaged directly
with the tented camp, are producing food
that is sold through the camp. We’re seeing community trails beginning to be developed through the larger umbrella organization of Ruhija, the Ruhija Tourism
Development Organization that was also developed
as part of the project. They’ve trained bird guides. [birds sing] We’ve sent a trainer up here who trained anyone in the community interested in beekeeping, beekeeping management, and product development. ♫ It’s wonderful today ♫ ♫ It is a wonderful day today
for it is ♫ [all sing] There is also Ruhija Orphans
and Needy Children’s Group that’s been put together by
a young woman in the community by the name of Happy. ♫ Life can be difficult
in parts of Africa. A lot of the children here
are orphans. (Michael)
There are, some of the orphans are considered single orphans, that is, they have only one parent, and others are from families that really
can’t provide for them. The children will show up at
the camp, provide entertainment, and then generally the tourists will provide some money to support the initiative. Given that tourists are coming to the community, we’re starting to see some collateral development as well. We’re seeing gift shops
opening up on the main street. What is really interesting
about this though, and I think that differentiates it from some other communities where we’ve seen collateral, or what other people might call coattail development, because now you have tourists, people set up shops to sell things– there’s really a limited amount of space in which to set up these shops. And so as a result, while there is no formal planning structure, there is
an overarching ownership where community members
own the land on this ridge. So it’s very difficult
for outsiders to come in and open up these shops,
which therefore then, contributes
to the local economy. What we’re not seeing is
outside groups coming in, setting up shops, then earning income and taking it away. So the income generated
from all of these operations is actually staying
in the community. And again, because of that,
the community has a greater appreciation for the park and more interested in conserving
the biodiversity in the park that really forms the foundation of this sort of renewed economic activity
in the community. In Kibale National Park, many of the communities surrounding
the park are agricultural. Kibale National Park is known for its primate population, which are fairly clever animals, which frequently raid crops. So it sets up a fairly significant conflict between local communities
and wildlife in the park. And when a monkey
comes out of the park and eats the vegetables
in a garden, the park monkeys have caused damage to people’s property. But by developing income based upon that wildlife, and having the people recognize that their income is coming because tourists are coming
to visit the wildlife, they become more tolerant
of some of these activities. There’s a strong community champion in Kemigisa, who really set the stage
for things moving forward. (Michael) Margaret has organized
the community members, the women in her community
into craft development groups. She has over 250 women working in her group, producing crafts for sale
at zoos across North America. And for
a very short period of time, in Banff National Park
as well. (Margaret) (Michael) The next stage
of that particular project is to help Margaret develop marketing
opportunities outside of Uganda, because some of the crafts that they produce in their community are truly some of the best
in Uganda. (Michael) There’s a second group in Kibale, the research assistants at the Makerere University Field Station. At this time they’ve successfully initiated an apiary,
where they have beehives. They’ve begun a tree plantation for native trees for use for medicinal purposes, and they’re considering the development of a trail
in the Dura Swamp. (Michael) The third project is
occurring in Katanguru, which in Queen Elizabeth National Park. It’s actually right on the border of the park, it’s a small fishing community, and it has a very, very low
educational capacity. Very few people in the community have completed even primary 6, there’s only
a few people in the community who speak English, and it’s been a real challenge to develop a proposal for them that would allow them to engage in tourism and certainly in international tourism, ’cause it’s pretty much
a requirement that somebody speak English, German, Italian, or French in order to engage
with the tourists. Early on in our discussions
with that group, we were able to work with
the Ugandan Wildlife Authority and got permission for them to operate a boat launch
on the channel, which had the potential
to generate a lot of income, but would be very costly
to get started and very difficult
to bring that community up to the capacity where they’d be able to manage it. It’s still there as a possibility for the future as they begin developing
other initiatives, and it’ll likely take place in terms of
a public/private partnership, where we’ll have them work with one of the local lodging operators to help manage it and ensure that it works
in a sustainable fashion. But for the time being,
the women actually decided what they’d like to do and what they felt comfortable doing was taking some
of the land that they
have been given by the park, rehabilitating it, it’s
a former sand and gravel quarry, and turning it into a hostel
for Ugandan school children who visit the park, which seems like a very good idea given the fact that they speak the local language, the students
from Ugandan schools will be speaking
the local language, and they won’t have to raise
the expectations in terms of what
their deliverables are. School kids visit the national parks in part to develop an appreciation
for Uganda’s nature amongst its own population
in the hopes that they will want to conserve nature and generally, support the national park system. When we first came to Uganda to begin working, when we were initially
funded for the project, we set up a meeting in Kampala with the entire project team from Makerere University, University of Manitoba, and then we invited
community partners. We asked them to sit in a room and work with us to identify what they thought was, first of all, the set of knowledge that tour professionals should have, the attitudes that a tour professional should have, and essentially,
the characteristics and interpersonal skills that tour professionals should have. And based on those elements, we defined
the ideal tour professional and started to build that
into the curriculum. They wanted critical thinkers; they wanted people who could think on their feet. They didn’t want people who were just going to spit answers back to them that they read in a book. They wanted them to be able
to work in the field. So a big component of that was having an extensive field component for students. So the students now
on our master’s degree, spend at least a month,
up to 4 months, working with a community, developing tourism product and understanding
the tourism industry in that particular community. (Michael) We’re averaging about
5 students a year coming into the program, but in addition
to the master’s students, we also are training
3 PhD students. Those PhD students are
doing their PhDs in Makerere, but we’ve got
Commonwealth Scholarships to bring them to Canada
for 6 months of intensive research
and training. One of those students is in Canada right at this very time. (Michael) Uganda suffers, has something of an image problem. For people of my generation,
all we think of when we hear the word Uganda
is Idi Amin. For people of the younger generation, they think of HIV AIDS. Then generally, people think it’s unsafe. ♫ Uganda is probably the safest country in Africa right now. The Ugandan people are warm, open, friendly, incredibly happy to see tourists in their country. There really is no part
of the country that it isn’t safe to travel in. The most recent statistics from the Ugandan Tourism Board show that about one million, close to a million tourists maybe 800,000, 900,000
visited in 2011. Those numbers have increased almost tenfold since the late 1990s, so numbers of tourists are increasing rapidly. Some of our research shows, however, that a lot of those tourists aren’t the typical nature-based tourism. About 50% of them are
actually here as volunteers, working in the country
with NGOs, religious organizations, etc. Probably only about 25%
are actual nature tourists. So what that says to me is that there’s tremendous potential to expand the nature-based tourism offerings in Uganda, and particularly when you think about the bird population. They have
over 1100 species of birds in a very, very tiny country. And it’s very easy for people to add immeasurable numbers
to their life lists. And I don’t think Uganda yet is doing as good a job as it could in marketing itself
as a birding destination. Birding is a huge industry,
and people across the globe spend a lot of money
to travel and see birds, and I think Uganda is probably one of the best places on the planet
to come and see birds. [drums play; people sing
in Ugandan language] (Kato) ♫♫ [children laughing] (woman) To order a DVD copy of “Uganda, Sustainable Tourism,” please call, or visit
our online store… (woman) Production funding
is provided by the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Manitoba through a UPCD grant from Canadian International Development Agency and AUCC, and by the members
of Prairie Public

14 thoughts on “Uganda; Sustainable Tourism

  1. THIS IS VERY GOOD i wish all Ugandans could think and see at that angle then tourism would be at ahigher level in the next comming years.

  2. It appears not be safe for any of us to visit Uganda any longer. Until the new anti-gay law is repealed I would suggest there be a boycott of this country. The law punishes first-time "offenders" with 14 years in jail. It also sets life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of "aggravated homosexuality". That means that the premier of my province, Ontario, would not be allowed to visit – or the foreign minister of Canada. Or a number of Presidents and Prime Ministers. This is madness. The world needs to make it clear to backward countries that they need to start taking basic human rights seriously or face the consequences. Hatred is a way of life in Uganda – It was within my lifetime (the 1970s), that they expelled all of the Indians and Pakistanis. The president announced that God told him to order the expulsion. His God and Uganda's God, perhaps, but not my God. Boycott Uganda!

  3. Makes me want to go on a holiday there now! Inspirational to see a sustainable tourism industry taking off and starting from the ground up.

  4. Way to go with sensitivity to the enviorment and our sisters and brothers in the areas where we do tourism business from.

    Thank you for this insightful information

  5. Great video!!! I'm choosing a place to study a short course in Sustainable Tourism. Have found the Sustainability and Ecotourism Summer course of in Bali.
    Do you recommend it?
    I appreciate any help.

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