Recently local leaders of communities around Lake Mburo national Park voiced their concerns about stray wild animals feeding on and destroying their crop fields. They cited a looming famine that may result if such unfortunate trends prevail. Thank God they did not take the extreme solution of killing them. This is one example of wildlife- community tensions that abound around many national parks in the country.
The 370sq. Km Lake Mburo national park was gazetted in 1984 and named after the lake that lies within. It is a birding hot spot with 0ver 300 bird species and a home for many common wild animals such as buffalo, topi, waterbucks as well as rare ones like eland and zebra. Wildlife even in protected areas like Lake Mburo national park has over the years bore the brunt of poaching for meat, ivory, skins and cultural rituals. These unfortunate trends hence forth have been attenuated via rigorous tracking down of poachers and community sensitization about the importance of wildlife.
It is no doubt that Uganda’s varied wildlife has made the tourism sector the fastest growing economic area hence positively impacting on the country. However lack of harmony between wildlife and man greatly threatens wildlife survival and the economy at large. There are impressive cases in Uganda where by communities around national parks have employed indigenous knowledge to ensure harmony between themselves and wildlife. These communities have also gone ahead to harness the opportunities that are presented by the proximity to national parks. Communities around the Southern sector of Queen Elisabeth national park (Ishasha sector) use decoys, repellants, noise and dig barrier trenches to scare or stop wild game roaming into their crop fields and homesteads. With resilient and curious animals such as warthogs, some people even endure cold nights outside. So amazing how they understand the importance of wildlife despite the endemic risk posed by wild game. Through partnership with local tour operators, some community members are now able to exhibit their protective techniques to tourists for a fee and also organize community visits. A local farmer named Deo who lives at the edge of Queen Elizabeth national park in Ishasha-Kanungu district is a pin-point example. He burns hot pepper to repel animals as they approach his crop fields. His boundery with the Park is a 7ft deep, 2 m wide trench effective to keep off big game like elephants. He also exhibits his techniques for a fee.
The Batwa communities in Bwindi national park have also been integrated on the tourism agenda in return for harmonious living with wildlife. Karimojong communities around Kidepo valley national park have also been organized to enable community visits whereby proceeds go directly to them. Another example is the Bigodi swamp in Kibale national park. Here a community based organization KAFRED runs and manages this birding hotspot and exclusive home for some primates. Proceeds from the swamp walk go to the organization. They also sell crafts and souvenirs to tourist.
The communities around Lake Mburo can borrow branches not leaves from such communities. On a good note, community initiative though few are in place around Lake Mburo national park to tap the available opportunities. Tourists can be able to visit a cattle keeping (pastoralist) homestead whereby they are able to appreciate the principle roles of cattle in the community livelihoods. Here they can participate in grazing, grooming, milking, churning milk and making butter locally.
Tourism is a largely dynamic sector whereby everything around us can be polished and packaged to capture the interests of the public. As Ugandans, the variety of attractions gives us an absolute advantage and provides for integration to nurture the budding sectors of the tourism industry such as cultural tourism. Therefore it is in the best interest of tourism that communities around lake Mburo should solve this problem by coming up with innovations that will harness the tourism potential in the area further.