Through the People & Parks programme, Soft Power Education’s expert programme staff provide the tools and expertise that empower communities bordering Murchison Falls Conservation Area to design, develop and implement their own community driven initiatives. The programme operates a two-pronged approach, comprising environmental conservation training and sustainable income generating projects.
We train community members to develop and maintain sustainable and environmentally friendly projects such as bee keeping, goat rearing and tree planting. Through viable alternative livelihood options, communities can build themselves and their children a sustainable future, whilst at the same time helping to conserve environmentally threatened habitats.
People & Parks began in 2010 after research into the challenges and needs of Buliisa district as a mechanism of supporting local communities and the work of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. People & Parks also reinforces messages about the importance of education, thus complimenting our Buliisa District School Infrastructure Programme.
“Target communities are empowered through inclusive and diverse educational initiatives and increased opportunities to be engaged in practical, sustainable interventions”
Soft Power Education Strategic Objective One
People & Parks began in 2010 after research into the challenges and need of the Buliisa district, and as a mechanism of supporting local communities and the work of the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Often referred to as the “forgotten district” Buliisa has been repeatedly affected by key events in Uganda’s history. There has been rapid population growth in this region. Not only due to high birth rates, but also inward migration of internally displaced people fleeing the Lord’s Resistance Army war in northern Uganda, as well as unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This had compounded Buliisa’s fragile state, already constrained by the gazetting of Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) in 1952. At the time of its establishment in the 1950s, the area was home to numerous communities that were forced to relocate. As populations shifted, and have since expanded, pressure on natural resources and wildlife populations increased.
Traditionally, livelihoods in Buliisa were reliant on fishing, hunting and timber harvesting. Today, however, fish stocks have been depleted, wild animals hunted to extinction or near extinction and forests reduced to a fragment of their former size, forcing communities to rely on exploiting resources from protected areas e.g. poaching, deforestation and charcoal burning. This is largely to do with a lack of knowledge of and access to alternative livelihood opportunities and demonstrates a clear need for diversified and sustainable income-generating options.
The People & Parks model is designed to bolster the ability of local communities to play a lead role in their own development and operates a two-pronged approached, comprising environmental conservation training and sustainable income-generating projects.
People & Parks aims to address issues by both changing attitudes towards conservation through education, providing viable alternative options and small-scale start-up grants to enable communities to practice these diversified livelihoods. Such environmentally-friendly projects include bee keeping, goat rearing and tree planting.
Through such viable alternative livelihood options, communities can build themselves and their children a sustainable future, whilst at the same time helping to conserve environmentally threatened habitats.
The project objectives are:
- To increase awareness of environmental conservation issues, sustainable natural resource management and environmentally sustainable livelihood options amongst target communities;
- To improve knowledge of and confidence in project planning and budgeting, resulting in knowledge transfer to the wider community to support personal, social and economic development;
- To increase the uptake of sustainable and relevant opportunities for income generation leading to improved health and education and thus better life chances.
SPE seeks to achieve these objectives through building the capacity of community members throughout sub-counties in Buliisa. By engaging local people to lead the implementation of the project, we aim to build self-confidence, skills and capacity, as well as inspiring other people to participate.
Each People & Parks project is designed with an emphasis on long-term sustainability, seeking to integrate SPE’s work to the fullest extent possible within existing structures and systems. Through this strategy, knowledge will be retained within Buliisa and activities will be able to continue with minimal external support. The transferrable skills developed by group members can be applied to further entrepreneurial activities.
In partnership with the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, SPE have established two community gardens in two villages situated in Uganda’s largest protected area, Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Community members received 15 group training sessions from our expert field officers, covering topics including anti-deforestation, waste and waste management, human wildlife conflicts, project design, development and analysis. They then submitted an application for a start-up grant for their gardens which were established using permaculture methods.
The long-term aim of the project is to bridge the gap between tourism in Murchison Falls National Park and local communities, ensuring that they benefit through tourism. Once their gardens are fully established, community members will sell their produce to the lodges throughout the park, providing a sustainable and environmentally-friendly income and improved quality of life for themselves and their families.
We are always looking for interested, passionate and keen skilled volunteers to integrate into People & Parks activities, particularly those with knowledge of environmental education, entrepreneurship and agriculture.