Local Community Participation and Wildlife Conservation in Uganda
A Case of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kasese District
This paper seeks to demonstrate how community involvement in Wildlife conservation has both empowering and disempowering effects. The paper addresses two questions: 1) Does community participation in wildlife protection lead to their empowerment? And 2) Does empowerment, in turn, lead to community development? Different methods of data collection were used, including interviews and unstructured questionnaire henceforth the paper purely adopted qualitative approaches to data collection and analysis. Findings from these sources drive the main argument of the paper that the relationship between community participation in conservation and economic empowerment remains problematic. Findings from this research indicate that; community leaders and the youth play key roles of educating their members on the importance of wildlife conservation and guarding their forests from poachers respectively; they do not derive significant benefits from wildlife conservation efforts by the Government; the implementation of laws prohibiting hunting in the protected area and harvesting of conserved animal species in forests in the buffer zone has negatively affected the livelihood of heads of households and male youths who were great hunters. The study concludes and recommends that local communities in the area should be sensitized and educated on wildlife laws specifically laws relating to illegal hunting and bush meat consumption and trade. Creating local awareness on the benefits of wildlife conservation without tangible benfits from the park might not influence attitude change and deter wildlife utilization in the area. New policies could be formulated for integrated park management where local community, especially the youths can actively participate in wildlife conservation. Developing and promoting alternative forms of tourism in the area could bring benefits to the local community thus leading to attitude change and alternative source of livelihood.