Reported by George Owoyesigire (ELP 2009)
The Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED), a community based organisation located in Kamwenge District, Western Uganda has won the prestigious UNDP’s Equator Initiative Award 2010. The Equator Initiative Award is given to CBOs and NGOs in recognition of their outstanding successes in reducing poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. George Owoyesigire (ELP 2009), a KAFRED member since 1992, represented KAFRED during the well attended award ceremony that took place at the UN Headquarters in New York in September 2010.
George Owoyesigire (ELP 2009) joined the organization at its inception in 1992. He was, at that time, working with the Kibale Ecotourism Project at Kanyanchu River Camp as a Forest Guide. Owoyesigere writes "KAFRED has since grown into a model and successful community-based organization, fully dedicated to conservation and community development. I currently work with government as a Senior Wildlife Officer. However, over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with KAFRED in different capacities: first as a member of the Finance Committee during the period 1998/99 and later as Community and Resource Mobiliser in 2006/07." Recently, George was re-elected as a member of the Finance Committee and Chairman Board of Governors, Bigodi Secondary School, one of KAFRED’s initiated successful projects.
KAFRED’s vision is to promote sustainable natural resource management while generating benefits for livelihood improvement. The organisation is purely community owned with over 80 registered members. It is run by a dedicated team of Ugandan volunteer leaders selected by all voting members through regular democratic elections. The NGO’s main objectives include: conservation of natural and cultural resources; conservation education; and support to community development projects through tourism promotion and income generating activities.
KAFRED uses ecotourism and other environmentally sustainable businesses to promote biodiversity conservation and community development in the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary. The wetlands form an important wildlife corridor, and are home to rich biodiversity. The swamp, dominated by papyrus grasses, supports over 200 species of birds and eight species of primates. With participation from the local farming community, the original members of KAFRED were able to halt encroachment on the wetlands area and create guided wildlife trails for tourists. The revenues from tourism have been used in building a secondary school and promoting environmental education in the area, instituting a loan scheme for farming families, and supporting a local women’s group producing artisanal handicrafts.
KAFRED’s efforts have yielded significant environmental and socio-economic benefits, created indelible impacts, and the organisation will continue to make an outstanding contribution to conservation and development in Uganda. KAFRED is already harnessing the publicity and related benefits that come along with the Equator award to enhance its current conservation and community development projects.