Welcome to STAR-Uganda! Find all the information about the USAID (Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift) Program. Learn about Uganda’s Albertine Rift, great places to see, things to do, sustainable tourism development, conservation and more.

About the USAID STAR UGANDA programme
The USAID-STAR (Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift) Program is supported by USAID-Uganda and implemented by the United States Forest Service in partnership with Solimar International. This program seeks to reduce threats to biodiversity by addressing constraints in the tourism sector, reducing limitations for local entrepreneurs in developing tourism businesses, enhancing marketing efforts, and improving linkages between local, national, and global value chains.

The Challenge
Uganda’s economy today relies primarily on commodities produced through small-scale agriculture. Coffee, tea, cotton, and grains top the list of traditional exports, with tourism serving as the largest non-traditional export. In the 1960s, Uganda was the main tourist destination in eastern Africa and tourism was one of the country’s most important economic sectors. However, during the 1970s and 80s, natural resources were depleted, trained personnel left the country, tourism infrastructure was destroyed, wildlife was poached, and Uganda’s image as a tourist destination was severely damaged. With political instability and civil unrest now in the past, Uganda is enjoying strong economic growth and making progress toward redevelopment of its national park infrastructure and recovery of its animal populations.

The Objective

The overall objective of the USAID-STAR program is to strengthen sustainable tourism in support of biodiversity conservation in the Albertine Rift region of Uganda.  Much of Uganda’s existing tourism industry revolves around the national parks, which account for 13% of the country’s total surface area.  STAR will focus efforts on helping Uganda realize its competitive tourism potential in the Southern Albertine Rift (including Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park) and the Northern Albertine Rift (including Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Budongo Forest, and Murchison Falls National Park). The overall objectives of the program are to:

1)  Increase the direct participation by communities in tourism and increase incomes derived by communities from tourism activities and small enterprises;

2)  Increase and generate funding support for conservation activities and education and awareness campaigns focused on the value of biodiversity assets;

3)  Create alternative livelihoods away from natural resource depleting activities, including illegal activities in protected areas bordering targeted communities; and

4)  Increase the number of partnerships formed in support of conservation and sustainable tourism policies and support implementation of those policies.

The Solution
Uganda has a wide range of tourism assets with significant potential to contribute much more to economic growth, employment and poverty reduction in the country.  This richness is reflected in the highest concentration of primates in the world (including rare mountain gorillas), an ever-burgeoning bird list of over one thousand species, a special combination of natural and cultural assets, and an extraordinary variety of landscapes from arid savannas to lakes, tropical forests and high mountains.  This wealth of biodiversity competes with other interests, issues, and needs—requiring a system-wide approach to ensure stakeholders work together to understand common interests and work collaboratively towards common goals.  Utilizing this approach will promote growth within the tourism sector while protecting the natural resources upon which the destination and its communities depend.

STAR intends to improve the competitiveness of Uganda’s tourism industry at the park level as well as the regional and national level through three broad thematic areas of focus:

1)  Increase community revenues through tourism, including tourism product development and packaging, community tourism training, creating market linkages and direct marketing;

2)  Increase funding for conservation activities through marketing, PR, fundraising, travel philanthropy and corporate social responsibility programs, better marketing and branding of the National Parks themselves, and investments in tourism facilities, products and services that generate conservation benefits; and

3)  Increase partnership and communication in support of conservation and tourism by building partnerships with and between tourism stakeholder groups (such as the oil industry and tourism), working with partners on conservation and tourism sensitization programs, and engaging the media in support of tourism awareness.

Expected Outcomes
Increased revenues derived from tourism within the parks;
Tourism policy contraints addressed in collaboration with the Government of Uganda and key sector members;
Increased funding for conservation activities;
Increased collaboration of front-line communities with park management; and
Reduced illegal human activities within the parks.