With support from the Arcus Foundation, the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) is implementing a 2-year project (2019-2021) in Bunyoro and the Rwenzori sub-region to strengthen collaborative conservation of chimpanzees, not only through legal mechanisms but by reinforcing cultural institutions and resources. The project recognizes the important traditional role played by cultural leaders in conservation; recognizes the youth as the future agents for conservation, as well as private forest owners as partners in conserving the chimpanzee and its habitat. In the first year of the project, it was established that there are about 500 private forest owners in Bunyoro and a few in the Rwenzori region. These individuals and families have played an important role in safeguarding the habitat of the chimpanzees. These PFOs are motivated by a love for nature, the need to preserve indigenous medicinal plants and food, the need to protect water catchment areas, and some specifically to preserve and protect chimpanzees.
In February 2020, the Foundation organized a Private Forest Owners’ (PFOs) conference on collaborative efforts to conserve chimpanzees and their habitat in the Bunyoro and Rwenzori regions. It was noted that PFOs are recognized for their contribution to conservation however their recognition by and interface with the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and the Uganda Wildlife (UWA) is limited. There is also limited awareness of the legal provisions to guide collaboration between PFOs and the relevant state agencies; and how PFOs can manage their forests sustainably and protect chimpanzees. This project, therefore, provides a platform for PFOs, NFA, and UWA to interact and strengthen their collaboration towards a common conservation cause for the protection of the chimpanzee.
In the PFO dialogues and conference on Culture and Conservation of the chimpanzee, the need for capacity enhancement and knowledge on the legal provisions, especially with respect to the Wildlife and Forestry Acts, was revealed. A desire to learn about ways to make private forests more viable as well as how to develop effective conservation management plans were also expressed. CCFU, therefore, used this information to develop a training workshop on ‘Culture in Development” focusing on conservation, and particularly of chimpanzees, for PFOs and other stakeholders. Participants were encouraged to identify and register at least 30-50 PFOs prior to the workshop, as a precondition to attending the training
A 3-day training event was organized from 18th – 20th March 2020 held in Hoima, Bunyoro, which involved workshop sessions as well as visits to private forests for experiential learning. A total of 30 private forest owners participated in this training along with other stakeholders, including representatives from the Rwenzori region. The Uganda Forestry Authority and the Uganda Wildlife Authority were the key presenters at this training.