Pics for Parks Photo Contest

Do you have an amazing photo that captures your most inspirational travel experiences in one of Uganda’s ten national parks? Submit your photo for a chance to win. Winners will be treated to an amazing Uganda safari through the most popular three national parks in Uganda. The contest is open from December 1st 2011 through January 15th 2012.

Exciting prices to experience Uganda’s national parks await You!

General Themes for Submitting Your Photo;
– Wildlife in action including birds
– Scenic Vistas
– Conservation Photos
– Local Communities
– Safari Experience (visitors and park staff engaged in park activities.

NFA and Echuya Community Sign MOU

November 16, 2011 saw the long awaited partnership between Echuya Ecotourism Association (ECOTA) and National Forestry Authority (NFA) come to life with the official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

NFA Partners with local community to promote Ecotourism at Echuya Forest Reserve

November 16, 2011 saw the long awaited partnership between Echuya Ecotourism Association (ECOTA) and National Forestry Authority (NFA) come to life with the official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Since 2010, USAID-STAR has been lobbying for this important partnership as ameans of realizing ecotourism with and around Echuya forest reserve.

By this MOU, the ECOTA and NFA will among others be able to develop Eco-Tourism and nature conservation in Echuya Central Forest Reserve, Improve rural livelihoods through application and promotion of sustainable forestry enterprises, Provide for sharing of resources among parties, including infrastructure and human resources, for implementation of mutually agreed upon activities, Formalize arrangement for piloting a community based ecotourism activities within part of the buffer zone in Echuya Forest, Provide for the development of an enabling working environment and modalities to enhance joint planning and implementation of conservation interventions in Echuya Central Forest Reserve, Promote Collaborative Management arrangement among interest parties to ensure the health of Echuya Central Forest Reserve to provide sustainable supply of forestry goods and services to the local forest-edge communities and the general public.

To cement the partnership, NFA offered ECOTA space to construct a welcome center and camp site where they can host tourists and generate revenue to support their activities. USAID-STAR is grateful to this achievement and has already offered technical support to ECOTA.

Press Release for the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration Regional Forum

Theme: Transboundary Collaboration for effective conservation

1. The Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration

The roots of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration lie in the successful collaboration between park authorities in the key mountain gorilla habitat in the Virungas i.e. Virunga National Park (DRC), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), Mgahinga Gorilla and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks (Uganda).

The transboundary collaboration was originally intended to curb poaching and ensure the safety of the mountain gorillas but it later expanded to include the northern part of Virunga in the DRC and other parks in Uganda such as Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks.

With the support of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme and other stakeholders, trust and understanding has been established over several years through the recognition of common purpose and regular communication. Crucially the collaboration has stood firm, despite chronic regional instability and civil war. The recent gorillas census figures show the continued success of the collaboration with the increase in the numbers from 380 to 480 in the Mgahinga, Volcanoes and Virunga National Parks between 2006 and 2010. The census for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is currently ongoing.

Based on the initial success of the informal collaboration between park staff, the three protected area agencies i.e. the Congolese Institute of Conservation of Nature (ICCN), Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), working with various partners within the region, established the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) as a mechanism for strategic, transboundary, collaborative management of the Greater Virunga landscape.

The goal of the GVTC is to improve conservation of wildlife, habitats in the three countries and strengthen the ecological services and thus contribute to improving the socio-economic benefits to the communities.

Through effective transboundary collaboration, the GVTC builds on the successes achieved by local communities in working with the protected areas to enhance their livelihoods into a broader, regional approach that works with all stakeholders in the region.

2. The Regional Transboundary Forum

Today, we are having the first Regional Transboundary Forum, which is one of the six organis of the transboundary collaboration as identified in the draft treaty that set up the collaboration. The other five include:-

  1. The Summit of Heads of State and Government
  2. The Council of Ministers
  3. The Board
  4. The Executive Secretariat
  5. The Regional Technical Committees.

The Regional Transboundary Forum, which is held once in two years, is a meeting of a broad spectrum of stakeholders, based on a specific theme agreed upon by members. The event is meant to address the challenges faced in managing the protected areas in our countries and to highlight the importance of transboundary collaboration and stakeholder engagement.

The forum is also meant to update the stakeholders on the status of implementation of the Transboundary Strategic Plan. The stakeholders also use the opportunity to update each other on their various programmes and activities and have an opportunity to exchange ideas related to transboundary collaboration.

The October 11, 2011 regional forum has four specific objectives as listed below:

  • Raise awareness amongst the different stakeholders about the importance of transboundary collaboration
  • Provide stakeholders with information on the work of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration.
  • Provide opportunity to strengthen partnerships and initiate/develop new ones
  • Consolidate current development partner support and identify and develop new support identified and developed.

Sam Mwandha
Executive Secretary
Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration

For more information about the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, please contact The Executive Secretary, Mr. Sam Mwandha on 0776 890 424 and the Communications Officer, Mr. Jean Damascene Hakuzimana on +250 788309578,

Big Birding Day – October 15, 2010

A total of 655 species were recorded compared to 450 in 2009

As part of USAID STAR program to increase conservation and community revenue through tourism, the program is supporting Bird watching tourism enhancement and promotion in Uganda and global markets.

Enhancing Uganda’s bird watching offering is a particularly important for four reasons. First, bird watching links biodiversity conservation and tourism directly. Second, many of the top birding spots within the country are found within the Albertine Rift – boasts of 41 endemic species of birds and hosts the top most birding spots within Uganda. Third, birds are often found outside of the protected areas in the bordering communities, offering significant opportunity to link communities directly with these tourism resources. Forth, bird watchers are a highly attractive niche market in the sense that they tend to stay longer, spend more and require less in terms of services and infrastructure than most international tourists. Bird watching has a significant potential to generate income at local levels and contribute to poverty alleviation while protecting natural resources.

The big birding day is a birding race, an innovation to raise awareness about birds in Uganda and promote birding as an important tourism product. Launch of the Big Birding days was on 14th October at the Uganda Museum where a presentation was made on birds and birding in Uganda. The Birding from 15th October 2010 was a 24-hour exercise which begun at midnight on 15th October 2010 and ended midnight 16th October 2010.  It involved teams recording birds in different parts of the country including all National Parks, Wildlife reserves, Important Bird Areas, Ramsar sites, Forest reserves and many other sites.

Each team chose a site where they conducted the birding race but individuals were assigned sites to ensure full coverage and proper records. A team comprised of at least 2 people (lead birder and a recorder) who had good knowledge of birding and many others who joined.  Each group was equipped with at least a pair of binoculars, a guide book and a note book. The teams recorded all the birds seen and heard calling in sites at anytime of the day. The team leader then submitted the results from the birding by either email or on phone.

The organizing committee set up a tally centre at Nature Uganda to receive all records from all over Uganda. The tally centre was equipped with a computer fully connected with internet, three telephone lines and five people to man the centre since and receive results. Our strategy was to work out the best itinerary that a tourist would take to record the highest number of species in Uganda.

We had over 50 groups covering 38 sites in all regions of Uganda.  The teams included four community groups from Katwe, QENP, Ruboni in Rwenzori, Echuya Forest Reserve, Conserve Uganda in Katakwi, Mabamba bay, Kashoha Kitomi and Kyambura Reserve, Tourist teams, teams from Nature-Uganda, UWA including all national parks, UBGC members and other interested parties.

The highest record came from Kampala-Entebbe area with 175 species.  It was followed by Murchison falls National Park with 162, QENP with 160, Kidepo national Park with 150 species, Mabamba Ramsar site with 138 species, Bwindi Impenetrable National park 137, Mabira Forest Reserve with 136 species, the Bahai temple- Park Alexander 126, Kibale National park 110 and Lake Mburo National Park 110.

This year’s big day birders included the USAID SO7 Team (represented by Sudi, Daniela and Robert), the French Ambassador to Uganda, Commissioner of Wildlife at the Ministry of Tourism, Executive Director of Uganda Tourism Board, several Directors from Uganda Wildlife Authority, international tourists, Wildlife Clubs of Uganda from 4 primary schools, local celebrities, etc.

Sustainable Tourism Media Awards Honours Journalists

The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry (MTTI), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Tourism Association (UTA), Media and Tourism Training Institutions, Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA) and the USAID-STAR program successfully organized the first ever colorful Sustainable Tourism Media Awards Program   for excellent reporting on sustainable tourism issues and hosted a gala dinner event at the Kampala Serena Hotel on the evening of September 26, 2010 to award prizes. The event was presided over by the Honorable Janat Mukwaya, the Minister of General Duties from the Prime Minister’s Office and Honorable Serapio Rukundo, the Minister of State for Tourism. Approximately 150 others were in attendance representing media, private sector, and other community leaders.

The Sustainable Tourism Media Awards Program was among several collaborative actions that were agreed upon by different sustainable tourism stakeholders at a collaborative work planning retreat organized by USAID-STAR in October 2009. The stakeholder groups represented at the retreat included national government, the media, local government, conservation agencies, tour operators and hospitality, international friends, training institutions, non-governmental organizations, community based organizations and the private sector. The media representatives present proposed that annual media awards program be established to recognize journalists who excellently cover tourism related issues.

A Committee/Panel of Judges, with representatives from MTTI, UWA, UHOA, UTA, AUTO, UTB, Fountain Publishers, Media/Tourism Training Institutions and USAID-STAR formulated the judging criteria and selected the best publications based on content, educational value, information quality, creativity, accuracy of research, newsworthiness, and other qualifications. They also oversaw the collection of prizes from different private sector partners. Awards were offered in three categories: print, radio and television broadcast. Over 70 articles were submitted for competition.

For each category, one grand-prize winner and two runners-up were awarded. Grand-prize winners were awarded 1,000,000 UGX plus other prizes that included international travel vouchers and many in-country travel and adventure opportunities, all donated by tourism private sector companies and conservation agencies. The two runners-up were awarded 500,000 UGX each plus in-country travel and restaurant vouchers. Several journalists went home with Honorable Mention awards, honoring frequency, in-depth research, popularity, and creative educational value. Media Houses were also recognized for their excellent coverage of tourism and conservation related issues.

Excellent Coverage for Sustainable Tourism in the Print Media

Winner- Gerald Tenywa, New Vision, 1st Runner Up- Deusdedit Ruhangariyo, New Vision, 2nd Runner Up- Herbert Benon Oluka, Daily Monitor

Excellent Coverage for Sustainable Tourism for Television Broadcast

Winner- Craig Kadoda, NTV Uganda, 1st Runner Up- Tom Walsh, CNN, 2nd Runner Up- Chris Ocamringa, NTV Uganda

Excellent Coverage for Sustainable Tourism for Radio Broadcast

Winner- Ben Jumbe, KFM Radio, 1st Runner Up- Dennis Sigoa, UBC Radio, 2nd Runner Up- Tuguragara Matojo, Radio West

Excellent Coverage for Sustainable Tourism by a Media House

Winner- NTV Uganda, 1st Runner Up- New Vision, 2nd Runner Up- Daily Monitor

This event has been made possible with generous support to the committee from United States Agency for International Development, TourGuide Publications, Procurement News and Metro Magazine, Emirates Airlines, Kampala Serena Hotel, Nile Breweries (Nile Gold), Century Bottling Company (Coca-Cola, DASANI), Wildlife Clubs of Uganda, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Chobe Safari Lodge, Great Lakes Safaris Company. Masindi Hotel, Lake Kitandara Tours and Travel LTD, Golf Course Hotel, Protea Hotel Kampala, Wild Places, Volcanoes Safaris, Iguana Club and Matooke Tours, Wild Frontiers, Rhino Fund Uganda, Red Chilli Hideaway LTD, Geolodges, AfriTours & Travel, Pearl of Africa Tours and Travel LTD, Nile Rivers Explorers, Adrift Adventures, MTN, Lotus Mexicana Restaurant and NYK, Ibamba Restaurant, Steers Restaurant, Uganda Wines and Spirits Distributors, UCHUMI Super Market, Nawab Authentic Indian Restaurant, Red Lantern Chinese Restaurant, ImageZ, Banana Boat, National Arts and Crafts of Uganda Association

The Sustainable Tourism Media Awards will be an annual event and has a great way for the public and private sector to show how important media is for the economic growth of the country.

Content collection for New Uganda National Parks Website starts

USAID-STAR and UWA team have kicked-off preparations for the development of a high quality website for the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

USAID-STAR and UWA Team Starts Content Collection for the New Uganda National Parks Website.

USAID-STAR and UWA team have kicked- off preparations for the development of a high quality website for the Uganda Wildlife Authority.  The new Uganda Parks website is to be the most robust of any national parks in Africa and will be an extensive resource for travelers and conservation experts. This project is vital as it acts as a destination website for most of all the key high biodiversity areas that tourists come to see in Uganda. The team is made of UWA Officials, USAID STAR technical advisors, and a local film and photograph team from Promote Uganda Consultant Firm.

The aim is to create a unique and comprehensive website covering all ten of the country’s national parks, combining information about conservation, communities and wildlife, with details of tourism activities such as game drives, launch trips, gorilla tracking and wildlife monitoring. The site will emphasize the links between conservation and tourism and promote each of the parks through well-researched texts, professional photography and short video clips.

Program kicked off by USAID-STAR engaging local expertise and UWA staff discussing and developing a tourism itinerary planning using maps and travel guidebooks and research skills; travel writing skills; photography and videographer for tourism and wildlife documentation. Workshop surveys and interaction with trainers and trainees showed a significant increase in knowledge in these key areas.

In addition, USAID STAR worked closely with the UWA’s current web manager and other members of the UWA marketing team to develop the new website site map which is a guide for the new architecture and navigation for the new website. This participatory process will ultimately ensure accuracy in the web content planning and allow the UWA ownership of the final website once complete. The Executive Director of UWA approved the site map on December 8th and work is progressing on the website design and functional modules.

A photo competition, as part of this website program, was flagged off this week by Professor Ephraim Kamuntu, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage at the Entebbe Airport where he proclaimed great appreciation to USAID-UGANDA. The minister said: “We are here today to unveil the new branding at Entebbe International Airport (co-branded with USAID-STAR), which is the main gateway for visitors into the country. The new branding showcases country’s rich natural heritage and the importance of tourism to transform this economy. Today, we will also unveil a partnership to develop a more robust website which will enhance our marketing of the varied attractions and share conservation information. We are also launching the “Pics for Parks” photo competition to encourage and enable people share their best memories of Uganda’s beauty and participate in building a photo bank.”

USAID STAR, UWA and Promote Uganda Team will be visiting the Murchison Falls National Park, Kibale Forest and Semuliki National Park. The team will later continue to the Rwenzori Mountains, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park as well as the Lake Mburo National Park. In January they will visit Kidepo Valley and Mount Elgon to complete the content for the website.

Promoting Uganda

In recent months, USAID-STAR has worked closely with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to produce an array of materials for the promotion of Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) as a key destination within Uganda.

Promoting Uganda through the Destination Uganda Marketing Scheme

In recent months, USAID-STAR has worked closely with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to produce an array of materials for the promotion of Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) as a key destination within Uganda.  In this process, USAID-STAR and UWA created a comprehensive sales manual for the park and the businesses in and around it.

These were copied onto branded DVDs as well as other marketing materials including the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB)’s ‘Destination Uganda’ guide, Birding Uganda, Pearls of Uganda Sales Manual, and Aziz Azion’s “Oh Uganda” music video. Four hundred copies were carried by UWA representatives attending the World Travel Market in London in the first week of November to market Uganda and QENP. All stakeholders hope that these efforts will attract more travelers to Uganda and its unique destinations, such as Queen Elizabeth National Park.

UWA Executive Director Receives International Conservation Award

The Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority, Mr. Moses Mapesa has today, 4th October 2008 been awarded an international conservation award called the WCPA Fred Packard Award. Mr. Mapesa is one of seven people who will receive the award during the on-going IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

However, the award will be received on Mr. Mapesa’s behalf by the UWA Director of Tourism, Mrs. Eunice Duli Mahoro, who is representing Uganda Wildlife Authority at the Congress.

The Head of the IUCN Program on Protected Areas, Mr. David Sheppard, said in a phone interview that IUCN attaches a lot of importance to this award. “It is given to people who have given outstanding service to protected areas management recognizable at a global level,” Mr. Sheppard explained, further revealing that Mr. Mapesa was one of seven winners chosen from 15 nominees.

Mr. Sheppard also said that the WCPA Fred Packard Award is one of the most important awards given by the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). Some of the recipients of the award are from Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, United States and New Caledonia. Mr. Mapesa is the only award recipient from Africa.

Passing on the message to Mr. Mapesa, Mr. Sheppard wrote, “Congratulations and many thanks for all you have done and achieved for the protected areas and for conservation over many years.” Mr. Mapesa was further informed that the award, which is one of seven Packard Awards selected from a globally outstanding field of 15 nominees, would be given to him at the full WCPA members meeting on 4th October 2008.

Accepting the award (via email), Mr. Mapesa said, “This is a great inspiration and motivation for me and my colleagues in Uganda. I owe all this to my staff as I believe in teamwork.” He however regretted that he would be unable to personally receive the award because of earlier scheduled engagements, which he could not cancel at short notice.

The WCPA Fred Packard Award is named after the first IUCN Head of the Protected Areas Program, Mr. Fred Packard, who worked with the organization for over 35 years. The award is only in recognition at an international level of the great work done by various individuals in the field of protected areas management, and it has no financial incentive attached to it. Mr. Mapesa has worked with the wildlife sector for the last 19 years.

UWA Reaps from Elephant Protection Program

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has today received five sets of the Global Positioning System (GPS) complete with accessories from a program under the auspices of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) that is responsible for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE).

The equipment will boost implementation of the monitoring and research activities in the UWA’s national parks. The equipment will also be useful during aerial surveys. With the GPS equipment, UWA will be able to strengthen monitoring elephant populations and other wildlife species because elephants are keystone species.

The MIKE Sub regional Support Officer, Edison Nuwamanya explained that because elephants are keystone species, their management and conservation guarantees the survival and wellbeing of other species that share the range with them.

The MIKE program was started with the objective of providing relevant information necessary for elephant range states to make management and enforcement decisions as well as building institutional capacity. The program is implemented in Africa and Asia with the Eastern Africa sub region operational in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea and Rwanda. The information gathered through the MIKE Process is supposed to facilitate effective decision making for the long term management of elephant populations in the region.

Currently, the East African Sub-regional support office for the MIKE program is based at the UWA Headquarters in Kampala emphasizing the increased institutional collaboration between the national wildlife agencies and the CITES-MIKE program.

Through the MIKE program, UWA has been able to develop strong working relations with the neighboring countries, and UWA’s Management Information System (MIST) is now being adopted by other elephant range states in Eastern Africa such as Kenya, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. MIST is also already being used in Cambodia and Ghana.

Elephants are a huge attraction for both domestic and international tourists, but their populations have over the years been threatened by the high global demand for ivory and illegal trading activities in this product.

The CITES Convention regulates trade in elephant products and ensures that trade, if any, does not threaten elephant survival.

Since its inception, the CITES-MIKE program has helped increase knowledge of elephant numbers and habitats mostly through routine aerial surveys, institutional capacity building programs through training of rangers and wardens, and increased cross-border collaboration.

Ugandans Call For Promotion Of Conservation At Oil Public Hearing

The public hearing on the proposed established of an oil Early Production System (EPS) in Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve, which took place on 29th July concluded with Ugandans calling for promotion of environment-friendly practices that will ensure that conservation continues even as oil production begins within one of Uganda’s popular protected areas.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) organized the hearing after the public expressed major concerns with regard to the Environmental Impact Assessment, which was submitted by Tullow Oil – the company behind the plans to establish the EPS in the reserve.

Ugandans called for equitable sharing of the oil revenue, and expressed keen interest in seeing key constituents such as wildlife conservation and the local communities of Bunyoro benefit significantly from this revenue.

Sam Mwandha, the Director for Conservation at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) said a Conservation Fund should be established that will be used to fund monitoring and evaluation activities as well as help in implementing mitigation measures that Tullow Oil may fail to implement.

Tullow Oil opted to construct the EPS in Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve after confirming that the other alternative location would push the costs of production too high.

The EIA report proposed that the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve be degazetted in order to accommodate the oil production activities, but this was flatly rejected.

We want the public to know that oil production will last a limited time, but the biodiversity in the reserve will remain and we should protect it,” Mwandha said at the hearing, further observing that, “There will be big potential for pollution yet the EIA report was short on recommendations as far as mitigation will go.”
He also mentioned that monitoring remains a big challenge, and it will require all the relevant government agencies to get together to establish strong monitoring mechanisms.

The Deputy Prime Minister of the Bunyoro Government said that government should ensure that there is a concrete plan for opening up new areas where displaced wildlife will find refuge, as well as plans for resettling the people who will get displaced.

Former Member of Parliament for Rubaga North, and a renown environmental crusader, Ken Lukyamuzi observed that the planned EPS (oil refinery) would greatly impact on the ecosystem in the wildlife reserve and all efforts should be made to protect its beauty.

Speaking on behalf of the Honorary Wildlife Officers, Dr. Arthur Mugisha said as much thought should be put into the ecological costs of oil production as the economic costs, and concerted efforts should e made to preserve the ecology of the wildlife reserve.

The Member of Parliament for Bugaya County, Hon.Patrick Baguma said it is necessary to do a cost-benefit analysis before a license for establishing an oil refinery in a wildlife reserve is granted. “What shall we lose in terms of the flora and fauna (biodiversity) compared to oil?” he asked rhetorically.

However, the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Service, Hon Henry Kajura who also hails from Bunyoro, told participants in the public hearing that Ugandans should now concentrate on working out recommendations on how to get the oil flowing without negatively impacting the wildlife reserve.

“Let us move forward; we need this resource for development and for our infrastructure such as schools, roads and communications,” he implored.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Kabagambe Kaliisa said that whether at central or local government level, oil revenue will be used to create wealth and put infrastructure in place, create knowledge, educate the people and develop the country.

The Minister of State for Water and Environment, Hon Jessica Eriyo however counseled that the issues discussed at the public hearing should be taken seriously and integrated into program activities by all the concerned parties.

“Oil and gas will meet our country’s needs for a long time, but the risks to biodiversity are also likely to increase. The challenge is to have a strong voice for biodiversity conservation and reduce air and water pollution,” Hon. Eriyo said.

She observed that there is need to harness the opportunities for conservation, and pointed out that when the oil is finished we still need to have our ecosystems in good shape.

“Biodiversity conservation is an integral component of sustainable development,” she observed, adding, “I therefore urge Tullow Oil and other organizations to ensure that environmental considerations are in all their activities including improvement of community livelihoods.”

By the time the public hearing ended after nearly 10 hours of discussing and debating, consensus was reached to the effect that oil exploration and production should not be at the expense of biodiversity conservation.

Tullow Oil acknowledged that the loss of plants and displacement of animals will be inevitable during construction of the EPS but promised to keep the area affected as small as possible.

They also promised that after construction of the EPS they would ensure that all the areas around the EPS are returned to the same state as before.