NatureUganda (NU) is a proud corporate sponsor, together with the BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat (BLAPS) and other BirdLife partners in Rwanda, Kenya and Burundi are implementing a project on “Empowering local communities for the conservation and sustainable development of the birds and biodiversity of the Lake Victoria Basin” funded by AAGE V. Jensen Foundation. In Uganda, the project is being implemented through NU Site Support Groups (SSGs) in Mabamba and Lutembe bays on Lake Victoria with the main aim of empowering such local communities to ably conserve biodiversity on which they highly depend for their livelihoods. This requires that the communities are equipped with the required tools for biodiversity monitoring and conservation. Above: Grey-headed Gulls on Lutembe bay. Such bird congregations are a big tourism attraction for the site.
Participation of local communities at all stages of implementation is key if success is to be achieved. Initial participatory community capacity assessment was conducted. This was to identify capacity gaps that need to be strengthened. Subsequently a community resource map was developed highlighting status of natural resources in the community. This was highly participatory and synthesized threats, interventions and plans to address pressing needs. These great ideas are therefore being translated into a community action plan.
There is great enthusiasm and zeal in the communities and hope for successful delivery of identified milestones. There is commitment for collaboration between NatureUganda and the community especially the leadership who pledged support to all endeavours by NatureUganda . Many of them were quoted saying “Thank you NatureUganda for the effort you put in to support us, we will always be indebted to you”. And others were saying “NatureUganda, you need to come and help us fight the many investors who are finishing up the wetland. It is our livelihood and we need to defend it”. Such pleas put on your table are very difficult to ignore. But as NatureUganda, we can only do as much.
NU’s target is to empower and equip these communities, get them organized into recognizable groups and let them know that in such groups, they are so much bigger than NatureUganda and they can ably defend and protect their resources. A good example is the Mabamba SSG, which now has the capacity to stop and report any illegal activities to the respective authorities. The LEP project is here to make all community members able to do that kind of monitoring and action. Through the management plans recently developed by NatureUganda together with the communities under this project, these SSGs will be able to sustainably conserve and develop their sites for better livelihoods