Makerere Hill, off Bativa road, Kampala | +256 (0) 393 294 675/7
Makerere Hill, off Bativa road, Kampala | +256 (0) 393 294 675/7

Chimpanzee Conservationists call for restoration of key forest corridors during the 5th National stakeholders’ dialogue organised by CCFU

The 5th National Stakeholders’ dialogue on chimpanzee conservation using culture and community resources

On 6th June 2024, in Kampala, the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) held the 5th national level stakeholders’ dialogue in Kampala as part of its #CultureForChimps project, supported by the Arcus Foundation, that focuses on harnessing cultural and community-based resources to promote community respect and value for chimpanzees and to contribute to chimpanzee conservation (outside protected areas) in Uganda’s Bunyoro and Rwenzori regions.

The objectives of the stakeholders’ dialogue were to present emerging chimpanzee conservation issues from grassroots conservationists in Rwenzori and Bunyoro and devise conservation strategies; and to create a platform for dialogue between national and grassroots chimpanzee conservationists, with view to influence policy and practice.

Participants in the dialogue included representatives from Community Based Organisations, Private Forest Owners, Cultural Institutions, Traditional Medicine Practitioners, Local Governments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Youth, NGOs, Arcus Foundation and the media. See a list of participants in annex ‘a’.

In her welcome remarks, Barbra Babweteera, Executive Director, reiterated CCFU’s commitment to collaborating with stakeholders at all levels to protected chimpanzees in the country, especially using community and existing cultural resources. She extended her thanks to participants and to Arcus Foundation for the support to implement the chimpanzee conservation activities.

Using culture and community resources to conserve the chimpanzee – emerging issues and opportunities for collaboration

Aliguma Ahabyona Akiiki, CCFU’s Programme and Communication Coordinator presented emerging chimpanzee conservation issues including the weakening cultural values, human-chimpanzee interactions/conflict, commercialising of natural resources, limited research and documentation of cultural values linked to conservation, declining forest cover and uncoordinated efforts from conservationists. In his presentation, opportunities for collaboration were highlighted for stakeholders; these included, supporting clan based conservation initiatives, strengthening resilient cultural communities, collectively restoring forest corridors through institutionalised partnerships and working together to evaluate impact of initiatives.

The National Chimpanzee Conservation Strategy – a focus on chimpanzee conservation outside protected areas.

A brief of the National Chimpanzee Conservation Strategy (NCCS) was presented by Gerald Tumwine, Programmes Manager, Jane Goodall Institute (JGI). Gerald’s presentation commenced with an emphasis on the declining habitat cover, with visuals – maps and graphs, and called for urgent and continuous restoration efforts. He highlighted how conserving chimpanzees outside protected areas is essential for their long-term survival and ecological integrity of their habitats. Launched in 2023, the NCCS outlines goals that include habitat restoration, community engagement, sustainable livelihoods, and conflict mitigation.

Stakeholders’ reactions and suggestions for chimpanzee and forest conservation

During the dialogue participants deliberated on potential livelihood interventions that could support chimpanzee conservation efforts as search for livelihoods was severally mentioned as a key strategy in supporting communities in conservation. Bee keeping, planting cocoa (though the plant is a delicacy for chimpanzees in some areas), planting high value crops, energy saving stoves, among others were highlighted. Dr. Matt MacLennan from The Bulindi Chimpanzee and Community Project (BCCP) highlighted how their school sponsorship programme has been successful in helping communities to meet one of their needs. Ms. Hajara Nalubega from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development expressed her Ministry’s desire to protect clan totems using the culture and conservation approach described in CCFU’s conservation approach.

Nyangoma Mukooto, a Private Forest Owner from Kikuube District expressed her concern over the continued corridor restoration of chimpanzee corridors with exotic tree species or those that do not provide food or habituation to chimpanzees. Jane Goodall Institute was also requested to extend their activities to Rwenzori to collectively support a wider area to conserve chimpanzees. The sub-strategy in the NCCS to support direct land purchase in private lands that could offer chimpanzee conservation value was discussed, with seemingly minimal support by the community stakeholders in the dialogue. Community members also decried the continued ‘protected destruction’ of forests, especially Bugoma and called upon the National Forestry Authority and Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom to take a firm stand in conserving forests especially in the Bunyoro region.

Community level chimpanzee and forests conservation challenges and opportunities

At the regional dialogues organised by CCFU before the national dialogue, key conservation challenges and opportunities were discussed by grassroots conservationists to be presented at the national level. Ms. Naomo Mbambu, the Gender and Production Minister, representing Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu cultural institution, and Swaleh Kuteesa, Leader of Friends of Chimpanzee Family in Kagadi, shared the summary of their report. The issues addressed in the report included a call to strengthen connections between districts, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), National Forestry Authority (NFA), and local communities, demarcate all wetlands, identifying crucial corridors essential for chimpanzee conservation, revive community-based state conservationists and facilitators, particularly in critical areas, among others

Policy provisions for conservation of wildlife outside protected areas in Uganda, especially chimpanzees, and suggestions for policy review from the dialogue; and remarks from Arcus Foundation

Mr. George Owoyesigire, Commissioner, Wildlife Conservation, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities made a presentation in light of recommendation from this dialogue and the upcoming review of the Uganda Wildlife Policy 2014. His presentation, with illustrations, focused on the legal framework for wildlife conservation in general and, prevailing chimpanzee conservation challenges including chimpanzee eating, human-chimpanzee conflicts, declining forest cover, poaching and human fires.

Key suggestion for discussion in the policy review were also presented: increase incentives and benefits outside PAs, reduce costs, damages, attacks and conflicts – mitigation, actively engage/empower Local Governments and Local Communitiesto attach value and protect wildlife/chimpanzees, innovative management models for wildlife on private land, strengthen research and monitoring, strengthen involvement and engagement of Cultural Institutions, among others were presented. Mr. Owoyesigire appreciated the organisers of the dialogue for providing an opportunity to collect view to enrich the policy review and called upon stakeholders to contribute to the policy review process.

In her remarks, Alison White from Arcus Foundation called upon stakeholders to adopt a landscape approach to conservation which could include a collaborative, large-scale land management strategy beyond small areas or projects.

To read more about the event and key action points and recommendations, access the detailed report here

Background to CCFU’’s Culture and Chimpanzee Conservation Programme.

With support from the Arcus Foundation, the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) is implementing a 2-year project (2023-2025) focusing on harnessing cultural and community-based resources to promote community respect and value for chimpanzees and to contribute to chimpanzee conservation (outside protected areas) in Uganda’s Bunyoro and Rwenzori regions.

The current initiative arises from CCFU’s work in 2016 to 2022 that involved research studies and activities regarding communities, culture and chimpanzees. Studies highlighted that there are positive and negative cultural attachment to the chimpanzees, reinforced by traditional beliefs, principles and practices. Traditional leaders and structures such as the family, elders and clans, as well as private forest owners are important in supporting the conservation of the chimpanzee. Activities implemented involved Private Forest Owners (PFOs), cultural leaders, youth, state and non-state conservationists and the media. Read more about CCFU’s culture and conservation programme