Trans-boundary Conservation Programme Agro-forestry

It is funded by the DGIS through the Greater Virunga Transboundary Executive Secretariat (GV-TES) Kigali and BMCT. Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust(BMCT) in partnership with Greater Virunga Transboundary Executive Secretariat(GV-TES) based in Kigali, Rwanda engaged in an 18 months agro forestry and tree planting project in the thirteen parishes around Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area(BMCA).

The major aim of the project was to facilitate farmers to increase tree cover on the landscape while at the same time generating income through sell of tree seedlings by the tree nursery managers. Tree planting was complimented with a heifer programme targeting 50 households managed through the diocese of Muhabura. The heifer programme's principle is on a "send a cow" basis aimed at improving nutrition of selected households while at the same time boosting revenues through sale of milk and helping families to access organic manure.

Provision of tree nursery establishments

300 assorted nursery tools(hoes,spades,rakes,wheel barrows, secateurs,grafting knives,watering cans,jerrycans); 250 kgs of plythene tubes; 54kgs of assorted seed:pine(patula and carribaea), eucalytus, grivellia,maesopsis,calliandra seeds and 16m3 of mycorrhiza (pine soil) were procured and distributed to the nursery farmers as start up grants.

20 model tree nursery farmers were selected, taken through a three day refresher training in three nursery site identification, management and business / farm records to be able to operate tree nurseries as an enterprise.

By June 2011, of the 20 trained tree nursery farmers, 15 were actively engaged in the activity. They produced 531,418 seedlings. 243 tree growers(35 females, 208 males and 5 institutions) were trained in the basics of tree growing and management at their respective parish centers. Emphasis was put on: land preparation, lining out, pitting, seedling handling and transport from nursery to planting site, time of planting, weeding, pruning, thinning and fire protection.

Out of the 531,418 seedlings raised, 375,800 seedlings were purchased and planted by different tree growers. On average, each seedling cost UGX 150 at that time and hence farmers realized a cumulative income of UGX 56,370,00. Notwithstanding the all this, the income earned by the farmers was used to meet their basic needs like paying school fees, medical bills and renovation of their houses and was not re-invested in their respective tree businesses. Though, there is still a good number of farmers carrying out tree nursery business i.e. Existing farmers and new farmers.

Marketing of seedlings

To market the seedlings, the tree nursery farmers used mainly word od mouth through the churches and community meetings. Five nursery sign posts were erected at road junctions to boost marketing of seedlings and visibility of the project for outstanding nursery farmers.

The GEV-TES in partnership with BMCT through this project has increased tree cover in the area thereby contributing to the mitigation of climate change effects in the landscape. by involving tree farmers in commercial tree farming and fruit growing, the project has increased the sustainability of tree seedling raising / growing and improved livelihood. Furthermore, through the heifer program, farmers have been exposed to zero grazing for commercial purposes and improved agricultural methods.


Population Health Environment

Integrated Community Conservation and Development for a Healthy Population around Bwindi Conservation Area.

Population density and growth have an immense impact on conservation and development. There is a critical need for family planning and reproductive health services in Uganda where the fertility rate in rural areas remains high at 7.1 children per woman (with a national average of 6.7). It is estimated that less than 25% of all married women use contraceptives or other family planning methods resulting in a steady growing population and an increasing pressure on the ecological system and natural resources. There are many barriers for effective family planning in the Bwindi area and Kanungu District such as few and under-financed health centres,poor service delivery and limited awareness of sexual and reproductive health among the population in general and among the youth in particular. Furthermore, myths and misconceptions about contraceptives have created fear of infertility and other suspected side effects, as well as conservative cultural and religious beliefs hinder many families and unmarried women in preventing unwanted pregnancies.

BMCT works through the Population Health Environment programme to unite reproductive health, conservation and development partners to increase access to family planning services, and to improve conservation friendly livelihoods. The programme builds capacity among community change agents and health workers to improve service delivery and it raises awareness of reproductive health issues among youth, women and men for improved family health and sustainable development.

Creating Synergy

BMCT works to unite conservation, development and health stakeholders to create synergy for sustainable development. By establishing linkage mechanisms between community members, family planning service providers, and development and conservation groups, population health environment activities will be integrated and activities coordinated without wasting unnecessary resources on duplications. This year, BMCT has conducted a baseline survey in the target area to map the existing knowledge level and practices among the population and the various stakeholders, and to identify current interventions and gaps. The baseline data will be shared at stakeholders' dialogue meetings and used for further planning.

Building capacity

One of the biggest challenges for delivery of family planning and reproductive health services to community members in rural areas like Kanungu District, is lack of capacity. The health units are few and hard to access for people living in very remote areas, which deepens the already existing communication gap between service providers and potential clients. As a result, a large proportion of the population does not receive any counselling on family planning and are thus unable to make informed decisions regarding choice of contraceptive methods.

BMCT builds capacity by training community change agents and health workers from health units in Kanungu District to deliver good quality services to communities for improved family health and development.

BMCT has put in place a team of professionals already working in the district and use community change agents currently engaged within the communities through BMCT's other programmes. Their primary role is to ensure that up-to-date information about existing family planning services reaches all relevant stakeholders - especially women, youths and the indigenous Batwa people.

BMCT actively involves the whole family as a unit to ensure that men and women are equally informed and capable of making the right family planning decisions. This is fundamental because most women in Uganda do not control their sexual and reproductive health choices as it is up to their male partners to decide which contraceptive methods their partners should use.

Creating awareness

BMCT raises awareness about reproductive health among women, men and youth in all target ares - including school going children, school drop-outs and teenage mothers. Information about family planning is in general limited but it is particularly restricted for young people aged 15-30 years who do not relate to the current family planning services which they perceive to only concern married couples. To ensure that information reaches all community members, BMCT has held educative radio talk shows and trained drama groups in disseminating key messages about family planning and reproductive health. Additionally, the programme uses the VSLA methodology as an entry point for community mobilisation and information dissemination. VSLA members meet once a week and to save, which makes them easily accessible for community change agents and BMCT staff. Through VSLA meetings members have learned about contraceptives, the advantages of having manageable families, and the importance of environmental conservation.

Community Projects

In the last 2 years, 122 projects were supported in the districts of Kanungu, Kisoro and Rubanda. This was intended to improve the well-being of people around BwindiImpenetrable National Park (BINP) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) by supporting the diversification of income generation to improve livelihoods for women and men while at the same time promoting conservation of the two National Parks. Building the confidence of local commnunities and gaining their understanding and support for conservation, is the foundation for ensuring the lasting protection of these ecosystems. BMCT in 2014/15 – 2015/16 supported communities around BINP and MGNP with income generating projects to supplement their household needs.  These projects ranged from agricultural, livestock and consevation.

The projects were selected through use of sensitisation meetings, writing of proposals by comunities, submit them for vetting at LCII  (LC11 chairpersons, Secretary for women, Secretary for production, Community Development Officers and Parish Chief) and LCIII(LC3 chairperson, Sub-county chiefs, LCSC members, Community Development Officers (CDO) and BMCT) respectively. They are further verified by BMCT staff and Local Council Steering Committee (LCSC) together with government representatives to ensure that they are in line with government development priorities. Finally the projects are disbursement of funds to support implementation of the selected projectsconducted.

Agro inputs such as potato seed, animal breeds, tree seed, spawns, agro chemicals, animal drugs, pumps, drums, watering cans, jerry cans, hoes, pangas, rakes, polythene bags, knives, rolls of thread were procured and supplied to beneficiaries for implementing the following 122 projects.

Lessons Learnt from Community Projects

  • Livelihood projects have strong impact on conservation for example during monitoring, one of the beneficiaries from BujembeTwebeiseho Group, Murukore village, Mpungu parish, MpunguSubcounty,  said “we use money from the sale of honey to pay for household needs or invest it in other livelihood activities such as growing potatoes rather than engaging in illegal activities in the park. This helps us not to be tempted to go back to the forest as we used to do.
  • One farmer named Asiimwe Richard of Rushekye village, Remera parish, BukimbiriSubcounty   received one heifer. Previously he was more involved with growing potatoes. He is able to milk 10 litres per day earning 7,000 shillings per day and uses manure from cows for growing potatoes. There is increased income and nutrition at household level. As a result the farmer has managed to buy another heifer from money we got from milk and sale of potatoes. He is currently engaged in vegetable growing. About 14 community members benefited by getting cows and all of them have started selling milk.
  • Good cultural practices and sale of manure from goats and cows has increased income and food production at household level as evidenced by the increase in harvest from irishpotatoes. For example, in NyagisenyiMwakaMusha - Muhire group, Nyagisenyi village, NyarusizaSubcounty harvested 45 sacks of potatoes, and sold 30 sacks earning 3,000,000 shillings. Members have been able to share 1.5m, save 1.5m, and replanted 15 sacks of irish potatoes this season.
  • Another group KagogoMashaho Farmers Association of Kagogo –Mashoho village, IkumbaSub county has harvested 30 sacks of potatoes from 10 sacks they received from BMCT thus earning 4,500,000m from the sale of the potatoes.
  • There is improved nutrition of community members because of increased vegetable growing at household level because of use of manure from goats, pigs, sheep and cows.

Number of people supported in 2014/15 and 2015/16 financial year.

Figure 1: Number of individuals supported with community projects 2014/15 and 2015/16

(1,090 males & 1,287 females; N=2,377)


Health Education Agricultural and Land rights

Empowering Batwa women and men in southwestern Uganda to achieve sustainable livelihoods through increased access to land, food security, diversified income sources, improved health and higher levels of education. Implemented in Kisoro and Kabale districts With CARE international in Uganda

Landless and living in extreme poverty in small settlements on other people's land, the Batwa population is on of the most vulnerable and discriminated ethnic groups in Uganda.

The Batwa people are traditional indigenous forest dwellers but were expelled from their habitat in 1991 when Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park were gazetted as national parks. Without any provision of new land for settlement or alternative means of livelihoods, most Batwa families survive by working for small amounts of food or cash or by begging. As a result, a large proportion of the Batwa suffer from marginalization, depression, poor health, alcoholism and lack of hope for a better future.

BMCT supports the Batwa to achieve sustainable livelihoods by procuring land, establishing permanent houses, providing agricultural and small-scale business training, establishing VSLAs and disseminating hygiene and nutrition information. It is our aim to empower Batwa households to secure consistent income and to enable them to nourish their families and educate their children on their earnings.

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