Working With the Community to Conserve Mountain Gorillas Through the Rwerere Enterprise Community Training Center
Tourists who have had a personal encounter with these black haired giant apes on safaris in Uganda or Rwanda cannot ask for a better lifetime experience.
The number of interested parties in tracking mountain gorillas continues to grow and this trend will most definitely peak-on in the years to come.
But if we do not conserve these nonpareil species, all we will be left with for the future generations to see will be sheer stories and photos about a beautiful species of apes that once lived in the tropical and subtropical forests of Africa.
The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MoTWA), in a bid to sustain the mountain gorillas in the two protected areas of Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park from running extinct, has come up with a crusade entitled the “Mountain Gorilla Conservation and Community Livelihood Campaign”.
The ministry identified three (3) major killers of mountain gorillas (poaching, habitat destruction and disease spread) and also discovered that all these were due to the work of man either directly or indirectly.
Although poaching in the Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area has (BMCA) significantly abridged over the past decade, there are still occurrences where gorillas find themselves caught up in hunters snares while others are speared (especially the mothers) in order to capture the young ones and sell them off into captivity as pets.
Man has destroyed parts of the mountain gorillas’ habitat in pursuit of firewood, wood for manufacturing charcoal; medicinal plants and raw materials for the crafts industry.
This continues to threaten the survival of the mountain gorillas; because when their habitat is destroyed, the implication is that they will no longer have a source of food and a place to calmly rest in.
After several discussions with the communities living around the BMCA, research findings state that a great number of locals depend on the forest elements for their livelihoods.
The only best way to divert their efforts from destroying the forest is by providing them with alternative things to do; activities that will enable them to earn a living and support their families.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority together with the Local Government of the district of Kisoro and financially backed by the Greater Virunga Conservation Trans-boundary Collaboration (GVTC) are in the process of establishing a community Enterprise Center that will hopefully communicate the importance of mountain gorilla conservation to the locals with a bait of free training in skills development.
They have labeled the proposed center, “Rwerere Enterprise Community Training Center (RECTC)”.
On completion of the RECTC, the women and youth in the community will be trained in skills like making handicrafts which they can sell and earn a living from.
The center will also provide a market for the locally produced agricultural produce. The center will also be an entertainment hub for tourists with a tasteful selection of traditional dances, songs, poems and drama.
The brains behind this establishment also hope to employ some of the resident local people in their units like the restaurant, gifts and crafts shop, computer lab and internet café; and the guest accommodations.
RECTC will also be a debriefing point for tourists after their mountain gorilla tracking safaris in Uganda; and they will receive their certificates of achievement at this location.
The incomes generated from all of the operations of the establishment will go towards mountain gorilla conservation and the betterment of the local communities in this remote area of Uganda.
Mountain gorilla conservation is not an overnight campaign but requires relentless struggles by all the stakeholders involved. A flaw in one stakeholder can see the entire campaign tumbling down.
Hopefully with the establishment of the Rwerere Enterprise Community Training Center, the greatest threat to gorilla sustenance will have been tackled and perhaps we can begin to gain assurance of the continued existence of the mountain gorilla species for the future generations to enjoy.
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