Community-based forest enterprise development
Community-based Enterprises for the Conservation of biodiversity at Bwindi World Heritage Site
PROJECT OBJECTIVES and DESCRIPTION: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is situated in Southwest Uganda and hosts almost half of the world’s mountain gorilla population and 12 other animal threatened species. The three districts bordering Bwindi are the most densely populated of Uganda, where 40 percent of the population lack sufficient land to meet basic needs and 16 percent of the population is landless.
Before the establishment of Bwindi National Park, the local communities - Bakiga and Batwa people- depended on the forest for resources such as weaving materials and medicinal plants, hunting, honey, fruits and building poles. Batwa people, otherwise named pygmies, are said to have lived in the forest until the early 60s.
The Community-based commercial Enterprise Development was initiated to address the needs of communities and increase their cash income since they can no longer depend on local activities based on resources within the park. The project was launched with the financial support of the UN Foundation (UNF) and was implemented by a local NGO, the Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Conservation Trust (MBIFCT).
PROJECT PARTNERS AND STAKEHOLDERS:
- The local NGO Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Conservation Trust and UN Foundation
- Forest-dependent Bakiga and Batwa people
ACTIVITIES: Based on five main components, the project aimed at:
- improving local capacity to develop and manage natural resource-based enterprises in a sustainable manner;
- selecting in a participatory manner the most promising products and services for potential enterprises, taking into account environmental, economical, social and technical criteria;
- having the community members to develop business plans for the selected enterprises;
- establishing viable tree and forest products enterprises operated independently by community members; and
- documenting best practices and lessons learned.
After selecting three pilot sites, a district stakeholder workshop was carried out. The project staff and team of facilitators were trained in the Market Analysis and Development (MA&D) approach and in additional participatory approaches and skills needed to organize the village level workshop aimed at information gathering on potential products and services.
Once interest groups of community members had been created around selected promising products, the project focus turned to identifying able local entrepreneurs with leadership qualities. Utilizing the MA & D approach, the community members were involved from the outset in the planning of their enterprises. As a result 179 women and 129 men from three pilot sites became interested in creating specific enterprise groups.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND OUTCOMES: Feasible products and services selected by the communities included: ecotourism, traditional beekeeping, handicrafts, bird watching, mushroom, passion fruit and Irish potato cultivation, credit access and community campground improvements. More than 300 farmers and community members have established 13 enterprise groups. For each of these, a business plan has been developed, technical and entrepreneurial capacities have been improved, and pilot enterprise activities are up and running.
RELATED LINKS AND DOCUMENTS: Once the project ended, a case study was carried out in order to share the experiences gained during the project, also due to the specific context of a World Heritage Site such as the Bwindi Impenetrable Park. A document was also prepared on the Buhoma Village Walk, a successful Community-based Tourism experience.