Living with Wildlife: One Year On

Julius 2

A year on from the launch of the Living with Wildlife campaign, Julius Adubango, Ripple Effect’s project co-ordinator, reflects on the success of fundraising despite Covid-19, the additional challenges the pandemic has created in Uganda, and how the project’s work on the ground will change lives.

Why people-centred conservation is needed now more than ever in Uganda

Exactly a year ago we launched the Living With Wildlife Appeal, to raise funds for a joint project in Uganda with wildlife conservation charity Tusk.

In partnering with Tusk, our aim was to bring the combined years of expertise in conservation and development from both organisations together and create one cohesive project that could tackle poverty, wild life conservation and environmental degradation now. These problems are inherently linked, and in treating them as such we hope to achieve lasting change for people, and for wildlife.

I grew up near to Pakwach, which is one of the sub-counties we will be working in. I have seen how poverty threatens the local environment on a daily basis and leads people to hunt for bush meat to feed their families.

The traps people lay are indiscriminate and can accidentally ensnare endangered wildlife – including the Rothschild’s giraffe which is one of the most endangered populations of this wonderful animal.

This programme was designed to tackle the root causes of poverty in some of my country’s most vulnerable rural communities.

Exceeding our target: £2.6m raised

During the campaign, the UK went into its first pandemic lockdown. Despite the restrictions on fundraising work, all the supporters from Ripple Effect and Tusk, and the people our organisations reach, were incredibly generous.

We passed our original fundraising target, raising £2,656,200, including £1,247,233 of match funding from the UK government.

And we need it!

As with everywhere else, we saw how the pandemic had a huge impact on the people living around the Murchison Falls National Park. Food supply chains vanished. Lockdown prevented subsistence farmers from daily trading in basic foods. The 20% of tourism income that Uganda Wildlife Authority invested in the community disappeared as international air travel was halted and borders closed.

The effects of the pandemic in Uganda

Our delivery partners have reported a huge rise in illegal firewood cutting and collection for the charcoal markets in Kampala and Kenya. This is essential fuel for cooking. But in the districts surrounding Murchison Falls nearly all the trees have been cut down, resulting in substantial land degradation and loss of soil fertility. Some river Nile tributaries that once flowed throughout the year have become seasonal. It is also making the rivers dirtier– which affects fishing communities.

And there has been a surge in illegal bushmeat poaching using the snares and traps that are so devastating for a wide range of wildlife.

And then the floods came…

COVID-19 hasn’t been the only devastating challenge communities in Pakwach have faced this year. In 2020 the Nile flooded well above previous record levels. The floodwaters have remained for more than six months, resulting in flooded homes and farms, and papyrus clumps and river debris having an additional impact on fishing and agriculture. Entire fishing villages have vanished!

The need for our work on the ground is much greater than we could have foreseen a year ago. But despite considerable logistical challenges, the project got underway in October, thanks to your generous support.

As part of the project, young people will learn about conservation in school
As part of the project, young people will learn about conservation in school

Work is now underway

The money raised will train families living in poverty how to grow their own food and create sustainable ways of making a living while also funding vital conservation work in the community. Because of the challenging circumstances of this last year, this project is needed now more than ever to support both people and wildlife struggling against the triple impact of global pandemic, lockdown and flooding.

Thank you for making it possible.