Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has today, April 29, 2022, handed over UGX2,930,000,000 (approximately US$825,000) of revenue sharing funds to the communities neighboring Murchison Falls Conservation Area at a ceremony that took place at Masindi Hotel.
According to a statement by UWA Communications Manager, Hangi Bashir, the ceremony was presided over by the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Col. Tom Butime, who handed over the checks to the leaders of the Nwoya, Buliisa, Oyam, Masindi, Kiryandongo, and Pakwach districts.
Col. Butime said that the government recognizes the contribution of the local communities in wildlife protected area management. He noted that local communities that live next to these resources do not only guard them but also suffer the impacts of conserving wildlife in their areas. It is, therefore, imperative that the communities share the benefits that accrue from conservation work.
“It is for this reason that government gives back a portion of the revenues from the park to appreciate the role of the community in the protection of the wildlife resources,” he said.
Revenue sharing is also aimed at partially demonstrating the economic importance of the existence of the wildlife protected areas that communities live next to.
He cautioned leaders against diverting revenue sharing funds to other activities or delaying the release of the funds which impacts on service delivery. “I want to instruct chief administrative officers to ensure that the money disbursed today, reach[es] the targeted sub counties and communities in time. Government will not tolerate any diversion of the funds to projects which are not listed on the allocation schedule or any unnecessary delays in release of these funds to the target community or projects. Government will also not tolerate the use of project money on administrative costs of the districts,” said Col. Butime.
The Executive Director of UWA, Sam Mwandha, said that communities are key stakeholders in wildlife conservation, and their wellbeing is a matter of priority to the authority. “We understand that if communities don’t see the benefits of wildlife conservation in their areas, we cannot succeed in our work. Therefore, improving their livelihoods is not an option; we want to conserve with them and share benefits with them,” he said.
On behalf of the district leaders, District Chairperson Cosmas Byaruhanga hailed the good relationship between UWA and the communities and pledged the commitment of the leaders towards promoting conservation in their respective districts. He appreciated UWA’s commitment to release revenue sharing funds even when the institution’s revenues are still low due to small visitor numbers to protected areas. He said the leaders will ensure that the money goes directly to projects that improve the livelihoods of communities.
The function was attended by among others, chairpersons, resident district commissioners, chief administrative officers, and other technical officers from the six districts that neighbor Murchison Falls Conservation Area. These are Pakwach, Nwoya, Oyam, Kiryandongo, Buliisa, and Masindi.
Murchison Falls Conservation Area is composed of Murchison Falls National Park, Karuma Wildlife Reserve, and Bugungu Wildlife Reserve.
About Revenue Sharing Funds
Uganda Wildlife Authority gives back 20% of its annual park gate collections as a conditional grant to the communities neighboring the national parks under the revenue sharing scheme. The revenue sharing scheme is meant to strengthen partnerships between local communities, local governments, and the management of wildlife areas leading to sustainable management of wildlife resources in protected areas. Funds given to districts under the revenue sharing scheme go to community income generating projects identified by communities.
Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest national park. The park stretches 3,893 square kilometers, with the entire conservation area stretching 5,000 square kilometers. The Nile River flows through the middle of the park creating the impressive Murchison Falls which is the park’s major attraction. The landscape features dense rainforest, undulating savannah, a diversity of abundant wildlife, numerous primates, and 451 bird species including the rare sought after shoe billed stork.