Park action plans: increasing community engagement in tackling wildlife crime

In Uganda many people poach because of human-wildlife conflict or lack of income earning opportunities. The Uganda Wildlife Authority has a community programme to address such problems, but it is hampered by limited capacity and support. At Murchison Falls National Park IIED and partners piloted an approach that aims to increase community engagement in tackling wildlife crime by implementing park-level action plans.

April 2017 - September 2021
Dilys Roe

Principal researcher and team leader (biodiversity), Natural Resources

Conservation, communities and equity
A programme of work showing how IIED is building capacity to understand and implement equitable conservation and enhance community voice in conservation policymaking
A hippo in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. IIED is helping the Uganda Wildlife Authority to address wildlife crime through community engagement (Photo: Mirko Eggert, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

A hippo in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. IIED is helping the Uganda Wildlife Authority to address wildlife crime through community engagement (Photo: Mirko Eggert, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

Previous IIED-led research showed that while poverty is one driver of poaching and illegal wildlife trade (IWT), many people poach because they are angry about human-wildlife conflict or because there are no other ways of earning money.

Building capacity for pro-poor responses to wildlife crime in Uganda was a research project that ran from 2014-17. We found that the greatest reductions in wildlife crime were likely to result from: mitigating human-wildlife conflict, supporting community-based wildlife scouts, and establishing wildlife-friendly enterprises as a source of income. Addressing these issues and promoting community engagement is therefore an important complement to law enforcement measures that aim to reduce wildlife crime.

Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda's largest national park. There are more than 400 wildlife scouts in the park, but only 120-160 are linked to schemes that provide support for establishing and maintaining their livelihoods. Understandably, this affects the scouts' motivation and effectiveness.

While the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has a community conservation programme, it is one of the most poorly resourced units within the authority. Limited coordination between UWA and NGO efforts to support community-based interventions to tackle the illegal wildlife trade also challenge UWA-community relationships.  

This four-year project, funded by the UK Government's Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, addressed these issues by supporting the actions set out in UWA's Murchison Falls Community-Based Wildlife Crime Prevention Action Plan, and by building the institutional capacity of UWA's Community Conservation Unit to support them.

What did IIED do?

During this four-year project IIED and partners:

  • Supported existing wildlife-scout programmes with new community enterprise interventions, using the model pioneered by Village Enterprise to generate non-poaching related income and complement the human-wildlife conflict mitigation programme. At the midway point of the project, more than 100 businesses had started growing and selling crops that wild animals are not drawn to. Read more in the October 2019 IWT Challenge Fund’s newsletter (PDF, pages 8-9).
  • Coordinated and shared learning with existing community interventions around Murchison through the creation of a Coordination Forum. Read the report from the first stakeholder Coordination Forum meeting in November 2019 and from the second Coordination Forum in March 2020.

  • Collated data gathered by park rangers to assess trends in snare activity, as well as data collected by wildlife scouts on human-wildlife conflict and information from surveys on community attitudes in order to assess the impact of our interventions. This work was led by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Uganda
  • Built a community of practice within UWA on community engagement and the capacity of its Community Conservation Unit staff. This monitored and reported on the effectiveness of community engagement activities, and developed and tested reporting protocols to align with performance targets and indicators in the park action plan
  • Implemented a skills development and mentoring programme with Community Conservation Unit staff to increase their expertise in areas such as intervention planning based on IWT intelligence, coordination with law enforcement, conflict resolution, gender sensitisation, and monitoring and reporting. Download the training materials and read feedback on our 2018 training workshop and the proceedings of the 2019 training workshop in the 2019 Training Report, and
  • Supported UWA to revise its Community Conservation Policy using stakeholder consultations, and set a clear direction for the Community Conservation Unit within UWA's overall strategy on IWT.

Additional resources

News: Launch of Uganda's Community Conservation Policy (March 2021)

Video: Coverage of the launch of Uganda's Community Conservation Policy on UBC Television Uganda (April 2021)

Presentations: Eight training modules designed and delivered for Community Conservation Wardens, Uganda Wildlife Authority

Ranger perceptions of the role of local communities in providing actionable information on wildlife crime, Michelle Anagnostou, Geoffrey Mwedde, Dilys Roe, Robert J Smith, Henry Travers, Julia Baker (2020), Conservation Science and Practice journal article

Newsletter article (PDF), IWT Challenge Fund (page 8-9)

Understanding complex drivers of wildlife crime to design effective conservation interventions, Henry Travers, Lucy J. Archer, Geoffrey Mwedde, Dilys Roe, Julia Baker, Andrew J. Plumptre, Aggrey Rwetsiba, E.J. Milner-​Gulland (2019), Conservation Biology Journal (not open access)

Implementing Park Action Plans Stakeholder Coordination Forum Report, Uganda Conservation Foundation (2018)

Lessons learnt from a community scout programme in Uganda, Dilys Roe, Julia Baker (2018), Project report

Illegal Wildlife Trade newsletter (PDF) (2018), DEFRA

Murchison Falls National Park Community-Based Wildlife Crime Prevention Action Plan (2017)

Taking action against wildlife crime in Uganda, Henry Travers, Geoffrey Mwedde, Lucy Archer, Dilys Roe, Andrew Plumptre, Julia Baker, Aggrey Rwetsiba, E.J. Milner-​Gulland (2017), Research report

Wildlife crime: a review of the evidence on drivers and impacts in Uganda, Mariel Harrison, Dilys Roe, Julia Baker, Geoffrey Mwedde, Henry Travers, Andy Plumptre, Aggrey Rwetsiba, E.J. Milner-​Gulland (2015), Research report


The 'Implementing park action plans for community engagement to tackle IWT' project is grant funded by the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) Challenge Fund through UK government funding. However, the views expressed are not necessarily the views of the UK government.

The IWT Challenge Fund is for projects around the world tackling illegal wildlife trade and supports action in three areas including developing sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by illegal wildlife trade.