More than Shs2.9b was Friday handed over to communities neighbouring Murchison (Kabaleega) Falls Conservation Area in Masindi, Buliisa and Kiryandongo districts in Bunyoro and Nwoya, Oyam and Pakwach districts in the north as revenue sharing funds.
Officiating at the function that took place at Masindi Hotel, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Col (Rtd) Tom Butime, said the government recognises the contribution of local communities in wildlife protected area management.
He lauded people bordering Murchison (Kabaleega) Falls National Park for not only living adjacent to the natural resources but also helping in guarding them.
The minister said such an imperative role deserves commendation reciprocated through the communities sharing the benefits that accrue from conservation work.
“It is for this important reason that government gives back a portion of the revenues from the park to appreciate the role of the community in the protection of the wildlife resources,” Mr Butime said.
Handing over the cheques to the leaders of the respective districts, the minister cautioned them against either diverting the revenue sharing funds to other activities or delaying their release saying it impacts on service delivery.
“I want to instruct Chief Administrative Officers to ensure that the money disbursed today, reach the targeted sub-counties and communities in time. Government will not tolerate any diversion of the funds to projects which are not listed on the allocation schedule or any unnecessary delays in the release of these funds to the target community or projects. Government will not tolerate the use of project money on administrative costs of the districts,” the minister cautioned.
Mr Sam Mwandha, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Executive Director, appreciated communities bordering the wildlife protected area for being key stakeholders in wildlife conservation saying their wellbeing is a matter of priority to the Authority.
“We understand that if communities don’t see the benefits of wildlife conservation in their areas, we cannot succeed in our work. Therefore, improving their livelihoods is not an option. We want to conserve with them and share the benefits with them,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the District Chairpersons, the Masindi District Chairman, Mr Cosmas Byaruhanga, hailed the good relationship between UWA and the communities surrounding the wildlife protected area, pledging leaders’ commitment towards promoting conservation in their respective districts.
He appreciated UWA’s commitment to release the revenue sharing funds even when the institution’s revenues are still low due to small visitor numbers to protected areas.
The chairman said as leaders, they will ensure that the money goes directly to projects that improve the relevant community livelihoods.
The Nwoya District Chairman, Mr Emmanuel Orach, is optimistic that the Shs672. 864m given to his district will go a long way in addressing the livelihood of people across the Murchison Falls Park frontiers.
He revealed that the district authorities will strategise and inject the revenue sharing funds into livelihood projects that can transform the lives of the local communities.
About revenue sharing fund scheme
UWA gives back 20% of its annual park gate collections as a conditional grant to communities neighbouring national game parks under the revenue sharing scheme.
The scheme is meant to strengthen partnerships between local communities, local governments and the management of wildlife areas leading to sustainable management of wildlife resources in protected areas.
Funds given to districts under the revenue sharing scheme go to community income generating projects identified by communities.
According to a report from the Nwoya District Community Department, in 2021, a total of 3,014 acres of crops in areas bordering Murchison (Kabaleega) Falls National Park were destroyed by stray elephants affecting 85,619 local farmers.