“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.”
Happy is GMFER’s representative in Uganda. Happy and his family live amidst the mist-laden slopes adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Carpeted by one of Uganda’s most ancient and most biologically diverse rainforests, the park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to a full half of earth’s remaining mountain gorillas and a myriad species of fauna and flora. Surprisingly, a small number of elephants, both savannah elephants and forest elephants, inhabit the gorilla highlands.
Happy Bruno is a co-founder of the Bwindi Conservation for Generations Foundation, BCGF. BCGF is a registered non-profit in Uganda, its mission is to integrate conservation campaigns with civic enterprises that enrich the lives of humans and sustain the biodiversity of the Rift Valley region. In the recent past GMFER has partnered with BCGF on multiple programs to protect and nurture the animals and humans of the region; among these, the garbage collection project (Do it for the Earth, Plastic Kills) and the Tippy Tap project were effective and rewarding initiatives. The Tippy Tap project was installed adjacent to Gorilla habitat to protect both humans and animals from COVID-19. Gorillas share a whopping 98% of our DNA; if the humans in the region had contracted COVID-19, the consequences for both our human and primate relatives would have been devastating. GMFER and BCGF installed a simple and effective sanitizing system in the home of each family in the communities neighboring the park; the system, dubbed a ‘Tippy Tap Station’ comes replete with soap, water, and the will to stay healthy for each other and the natural world.
With human populations increasing, the region is experiencing an increased demand for arable land. Coupled with high illiteracy and the absence of a sensitized gestalt, the need for land in the presence of palpable poverty provokes predictable encroachment into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for food and resources; this reality is evidenced by the horrific killing, in 2020, of the silverback Rafiki from the Nkuringo Gorilla Group.
With the objective of mitigating the multiple crises facing the animals and humans of Bwindi, BCGF and GMFER has launched a program to harness the power of Bwindi’s communities to educate, raise awareness, build capacity and advance agency.
“It takes a village to change the world.”.
The pilot workshop for the program was very successful and well received by the community. While the specifics of the program may evolve with time, the current plan calls for stakeholders and interested parties to convene once every~45 days to host an educational workshop for the people of Bwindi.
The day-long workshop centers on the following:
a)Learn from indigenous women and local residents.
b) Educate and sensitize women and local residents on biodiversity.
c) Educate and sensitize women and local residents on climate change, mitigation, and adaptation measures.
d) Strengthen the educational capacity of women and local residents in the context of Bwindi Impenetrable Park’s ecological vulnerabilities in order to mitigate potential threats posed to the park.
e) Establish a framework for monitoring hazardous environment practices by communities adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
f) Establish a methodology to measure the success, partial success or failure of the project.
Our organizations will work closely with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Rubuguri Town Council to implement the project.
Note: Happy was elected to the office of councilor (LCIII) for Kashija ward, Rubuguri Town Council, Kisoro District. GMFER is unabashedly pleased with the outcome.
Every problem has a solution, every solution needs support.
The problems we face are urgent, complicated, and resistant to change. Real solutions demand creativity, hard work, and involvement from people like you.
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