Fairness can address the resentment that drives hunting in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Poverty is not the only reason people illegally hunt wildlife in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, according to the Uganda Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (U-PCLG), whose new research shows that resentment toward conservation projects is just as big a factor.
The report, which U-PCLG will launch today in Kampala, says fairness is the missing ingredient in the 'integrated conservation and development' (ICD) projects that aim to protect the park's wild species and benefit local communities at the same time.
In light of the report’s findings, U-PCLG calls for greater equity in the way revenues from tourism are shared, more national park-related jobs for local people, reduced human-wildlife conflict and efforts to promote sustainable use of natural resources.
ICD projects have been a key way for park authorities to improve relations with local communities. But such projects have had mixed success and, more than 20 years later, people continue to hunt bushmeat and harvest timber illegally.
The research sought to understand who undertakes hunting and other illegal activities and why. It found that feelings of injustice are as important a driver of such activities as rural poverty.
"Some people hunt in the park because they cannot afford to buy meat or raise livestock," says Medard Twinamatsiko, researcher at the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation and co-author of the report. "Others hunt, not because they are poor, but because they feel the national park is unjust. They hunt to take compensation for crops and livestock lost to wild animals from the park, or because they resent the fact ICD projects fail to benefit them or that the park gives jobs to outsiders."
The research showed that projects are more likely to succeed when they involve local people in their decision-making processes. Its findings will help ICD projects around Bwindi to become more effective at both conservation and poverty alleviation by improving fairness.
"This research has been an eye-opener," says Dr Panta Kasoma, coordinator of the U-PCLG. "It shows that fairness is not just a moral obligation, but a necessity for conservation to be effective and sustainable. It is now clear that there is need to target beneficiaries in ICD projects more precisely, and that issues of protected area governance and fairness cannot be ignored."
The U-PCLG will launch the report at the Uganda Museum in Kampala at 4pm on 18 September. The public event, organised by Nature Uganda, will include a presentation on the research followed by a discussion on conservation, equity and poverty alleviation. Printed copies of the report will be available.
U-PCLG is an alliance of local organisations that work to promote conservation and development. Its members include the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation, the Jane Goodall Institute-Uganda, and Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE).
The research was conducted by U-PCLG members in collaboration with the International Institute for Environment and Development, which co-published the report. Imperial College London and Parsons Brinckerhoff provided technical guidance.