A new campaign backed by explorer Levison Wood is aiming to help families in Uganda create sustainable livelihoods and protect wildlife in a nearby national park.
Charities Send a Cow and Tusk are joining forces on the Living with Wildlife appeal to train communities living near to Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, where poverty and lack of opportunity means many families are forced to hunt or poach.
Murchison Falls is Uganda’s oldest and largest national park and home to the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, of which only 2,000 remain in the wild.
“I visited the park whilst filming my documentary Walking the Nile and am all too aware of the link between poverty and wildlife decline,” said Wood.
“With limited sources of income and food, some families lay traps in the hope of catching bushmeat to feed their families and sell in the market. However, traps are indiscriminate and are causing untold damage. We must act now and protect endangered wildlife like the Rothschild’s giraffe before it is too late.’’
53-year-old Ujeni lives in Pakwach, close to Murchison Falls National Park, where he supports his family from a four-acre plot of land. Due to unpredictable rains, the food supply is scarce and his family often skip meals. ‘‘What makes people hunt is the same thing as what used to make me. They are looking for something for income,” he said.
‘‘If people had enough to eat, they wouldn’t go there (to the National Park). What takes people there is poverty. If people had alternative livelihoods, then they would leave the animals alone.’’
The Living with Wildlife appeal runs until 14 April 2020 and aims to raise £760,000, which will be matched pound for pound by the UK government as part of UK Aid Match.
Funding will be used to train over 7,000 families in growing food, help establish sustainable ways of making a living and fund vital conservation work in the community.
Families and young people in the area will also be supported to start their own small businesses and learn vocational skills, such as agroforestry and construction, which don’t endanger wildlife.
‘‘We must empower and equip local communities with the tools and knowledge to overcome poverty. This will not only help families to transform their lives but will also reduce cases of poaching,” said chief executive of Send a Cow, Paul Stuart.
Director of Tusk, Dan Bucknell, said: “The Living with Wildlife appeal will educate and engage local communities with conservation, so they themselves can become guardians of the park. This will enable Murchison Falls National Park to become a place where wildlife and people can thrive side by side for generations to come.”