Kibale Association for Rural & Environmental Development, Uganda
KAFRED was founded in 1992 by six members of Bigodi community with the technical assistance of a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. Since then the membership has gradually increased; today we number more than 170 members, including affiliate groups such as the Bigodi Women’s Group, Enyange Dance and Drama Group, Kiyoima Women’s Group, Owawe – Wawe, and the Bigodi Credit and Savings Group. Each of these is counted as a single member. KAFRED is a community-based organisation; 100% community owned and run. 100% of the net income (after meeting management costs) is spent on community development projects. Some of the successful community projects supported thus far include founding and building Bigodi Secondary School, building a house for midwives at Bigodi Health center III, supplying two villages with clean gravity water and scholarships for needy children. Our vision is to promote conservation, reduce poverty, and develop local communities, while our mission is to promote the management and sustainable use of natural resources around Bigodi Wetlands to achieve the development of the Rwenzori Region. Our goals include to:
• Conserve the environment in and around Bigodi Wetlands and Kibale National park through increased environmental knowledge, positively changed environmental attitudes and behaviors
• Improve the quality of life of the people in the Rwenzori region through supporting basic health services, quality education, and other basic needs
• Reduce poverty by increasing economic well-being and opportunities available to the Bigodi community through ecotourism, income-generating ventures and employing locals
• Increase the organizational capacity, effectiveness and the quality of its activities through increase revenues, skilled staff, facilitating gender and other marginalized group’s representation and building tourism infrastructure.
With participation from the local farming community the park authorities and local government officials, the original members of KAFRED were able to halt encroachment on the wetlands area and develop by-laws governing its use. The community conserved area has formed the basis of the development of ecotourism in Bigodi, which revolves around guided walks through both the swamp and the village. The swamp walks are operated by trained interpretive guides, and take place via boardwalks constructed through the wetlands. They allow tourists to see wildlife at close-hand. The village walks, meanwhile, were initiated to allow tourists to share cultures and traditions within the village. The activities include visiting the primary school, the church, and a traditional healer, and hearing about the role of women in the village, traditional ceremonies, and the story of the “Village of Two Tribes”. This refers to the history of Bigodi, in which the indigenous Batooro were joined by the migrating Bakiga, from south-western Uganda, in the 1950s. A tourist home-stay program is also being pioneered by a founding member of KAFRED.
The revenues from tourism have been used to meet the conservation and community needs of the local people. The achievements so far include: Reduction in the rate of environmental degradation; establishing and managing Bigodi secondary school; implementing a clean water project; increased household income through eco-businesses like handicrafts and music and dance; a interest free revolving fund for families with wildlife conflicts; infrastructure support to a local health unit; and collaboration with the North Carolina Zoo to implement an in-depth conservation education program.
As a result of the above achievements, KAFRED has won a number of accolades including a double winner of The Equator Initiative Award (2004 and 2010); best Community Sustainable Program in Uganda in 2008; silver award at the 2015 African Sustainable Tourism Awards and the TODO! Award for tourism for social responsibility, in Germany.
We want to join ATB in order to be part of the bigger picture. To be able to share successes and challenges with other tourism practitioners in Africa. This will also help increase the profile of KAFRED.
by Tinka John,