THE TEA GROWERS EXHIBIT HARMONIOUS LIVING WITH THE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS IN UGANDA
The Uganda gorilla tracking safari destination of Bwindi impenetrable Forest National Park provides shelter to a minimum of 400 critically endangered mountain gorillas which apparently still stand as the epitome attraction in the Uganda’s tourism product inventory.
Bwindi is a remarkably diverse Uganda Safari destination featuring myriad of flora including Bamboo species, a range of birds that include endemics like the Green Broadbill and other primates like Chimpanzee and Baboons. Surprisingly, this is surrounded by one of the intense agricultural communities in Africa marked by extreme levels of land fragmentation.
Though the Bwindi forest was indeed under threat due to need for more agricultural land, following its gezzetion and development of gorilla safaris in Uganda, the surrounding people have found means of living harmoniously with it. The Kayonza Growers Tea Factory (KGTF) which is a for profit community initiative under the ownership of 7,205 smallholder tea farmers has proved beyond doubt that the tea farmers can be at peace with the mountain gorillas.
Based in Kanungu bordering the northern section of Bwindi, the members of this initiative have struck an innovative means of implementing their tea growing programmes without compromising forest conservation and this is known as eco-agriculture. The initiative which commenced in the year 2010 has seen a count of over 4,000 farmers taught things regarding conservation of river banks, wetlands along with natural forests and as a result, over 20,000 indigenous trees have been planted on farm margins along with hillsides that have already been degraded.
The KGTF’s Chairman Mr. Gregory Mugabe notes that the initiative was inspired by need to halt the decreasing trend in the tea production believed to have been caused by shortage of water, degradation of soil and prolonged drought all of which were brought up by deforestation. The dream came true in 2010 when the UK based Café Direct brought in the eco-agriculture initiative. The Café Direct operates in twelve (12) developing countries and in 2012, it run a producer challenge centered on climate change which saw KGTF emerge the winner pocketing $10,000 – the money that pushed the eco-agriculture initiative on the margins of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to greater heights.
The local people through this initiative have not only achieved environmental conservation but also increased the habitat for the fauna that can as well be explored on gorilla safaris in Uganda. The community benefits from tourism development in the area through local employment in lodges, art and craft centers and conservation along with market for their produce. This in turn has created a harmonious environment between the local people and the park where almost a half of the world’s mountain gorilla population is known to be thriving.