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WWF Saves 800 People Affected by COVID 19 Pandemic

The WWF Uganda has embarked on provision of alternative livelihoods to more than 800 people who were rendered jobless following the suspension of tourism activities around Rwenzori Mountains National Park due to covid-19.

Beneficiaries include porters, guides and cooks, who were attached to the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services (RMS) in Bugoye sub-county and Rwenzori Trekking Services (RTS) in Kilembe sub-county. Others are Resource Use Groups who used to access the park to collect firewood, herbs, honey and mushrooms, among others.

Their plight was compounded by the May floods and landslides that destroyed various park and private infrastructure in the area.

WWF aided to alleviate their plight, through Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), delivered its first donation of UG. Shs 37 million on Thursday at the park’s headquarters in Rwakingi, Bugoye sub-county, Kasese district.

According to the Community Conservation Warden of Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Alice Natukunda, the items included; 140 Kenyan Top Bar (KTB) beehives to 400 porters, guides and cooks from Rwenzori Mountaineering Services (RMS) and Rwenzori Trekking Services RTS).

They also donated over 500kg of garlic to 10 resource use groups, comprising 200 members, as well as Boundary Management Committees (BMCs) with 70 hoes, 70 pangas, 70 garden gloves. The rapid response voluntary groups received 20 pairs of gumboots for use while monitoring chimpanzees to stop them from crossing to community land in Bunyangabu district and 1,900 fish fingerlings were given to other beneficiaries to practice fish farming in Kyarumba.

Natukunda added that the beneficiary groups were from the villages of; Kyarumba, Mbunga, Kilembe, Kisamba, Nyakalengija in Kasese district, as well as Nyakaka and Butyoka in Bunyangabu district.

“This fund from WWF was initially meant to purchase relief food items, but it came late when most covid-19 restrictions had been lifted and management decided to convert the money into a stimulus fund, where the impact on the ground could be observed” she said, adding that the programme is aimed at addressing the gaps and challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to communities that were directly benefiting from tourism activities.

James Okware, the parks’ Senior Warden In charge, said some beneficiaries had resorted to poaching in the park for survival, which puts their lives at risk of being attacked by animals and being arrested.

“The corona virus, floods and landslides have thrown the Rwenzori region and Kasese in particular into chaos,” noted Okware.

“Landslides had devastated various tourism facilities and trails in the mountain park and that about 1,400 porters had been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic that pushed people to poaching for survival,” he said, adding that the authorities had arrested some of the poachers and recovered up to 200 wire snares from Kilembe sector.

Okware revealed that UWA in partnership with WWF in Uganda, had, therefore, decided to support the affected communities with alternative livelihoods like providing them with high-value crops, such as garlic and modern beehives will avert over-use of the wildlife resources.