The project ‘Park action plans: increasing community engagement in tackling wildlife crime’ aims to address the factors leading to wildlife crime in Murchison Falls National Park (Uganda), to promote community engagement as an important complement to law enforcement, and to build the institutional capacity of the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s (UWA) Community Conservation Unit.
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest national park in Uganda.
The poaching and wildlife trade problem
Species affected Lion Panthera leo , African Elephant Loxodonta africana , PangolinsProducts in trade
Ivory, pangolin scales and meat, and lion products (such as bone or pelts) for international markets.
Overview of the problem
In MFNP the majority of species are caught for bushmeat markets, although there is also evidence of opportunistic poaching of high value species, such as elephants, lions and pangolins. Previous IIED-led research has shown the key drivers of poaching to be poverty, human-wildlife conflict (HWC) and a lack of income earning opportunities. This research indicated that mitigating HWC, establishing wildlife scouts and developing enterprise for income generation had the greatest potential to reduce wildlife crime.
In addition, there are poor relations between UWA and local communities surrounding MFNP.
The anti-IWT initiative
This project has two main components:
1) Implement community engagement programmes based on 5-year, multi-stakeholder park-level action plans, developed as a final output from a previous IIED-led project in Uganda.
Support existing community-based wildlife scout programmes by establishing new community enterprises to generate non-poaching income and to complement HWC mitigation activities, such as beekeeping to both deter crop-raiding and provide income. These enterprise programmes will be implemented in HWC and IWT hotspots, where HWC mitigation programmes need improving. Ex-poachers will also be targeted where possible.
Activities include supporting households with mentoring, training, micro-grants and saving groups, with the aim of empowering people to sustain their business in the future.
2) Build institutional capacity of UWA’s Community Conservation Unit to support the plans and increase its recognition within UWA HQ as an effective, strategic and necessary complement to law enforcement efforts.
Inclusion of gender, age and ethnic groups
Due to entrenched cultural norms, wildlife scouts are considered a male-only job. To include women in the project, enterprise development is targeted at women from households involved in scout programmes.
Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour
The wildlife scout programme is made up of community volunteers, who protect crops and livestock from wildlife in the park. Training and equipment is provided to the scouts.
Decreasing the costs of living with wildlife
Increasing the capacity of wildlife scouts to mitigate and respond to HWC.
Implementing bee and chilli approaches to deter elephants from crop raiding.
Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife
Many wildlife scouts at MFNP don’t receive any livelihood support. These scouts will be targeted for enterprise support, reaching at least 180 households through the development of 60 micro-businesses.
Has the initiative made a difference?
It has been reported that scouts are now an efficient and motivated group, responding quickly to incidents of crop-raiding. They are respected and recognised within their communities and maintain strong relationships with UWA Park Community staff.
Enterprise development has enabled 50 scout households, plus an additional 130 households to receive support to establish enterprises and associated business savings groups. Socio-economic monitoring surveys indicate that within one year, households had increased their average daily meal consumption and average weekly protein consumption, decreasing their likelihood of falling below the poverty line.
In 2020 Village Enterprise also initiated a Model Conservation Village within an area of high HWC and this has helped households to increase their income from growing and selling chillies.
A formal evaluation of changes to wildlife crime will take place at the end of the project.
Organisers, donors and partners
Project partners are IIED, Village Enterprise, Wildlife Conservation Society, Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda Conservation Foundation.
The project IWT036 “Implementing park action plans for community engagement to tackle IWT” is funded by the UK Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.
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