By Joan Akello
The U.S. Mission to Uganda, and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) registered increasing tourism and wildlife conservation in the Lake Albert Region of Uganda, with the conclusion of the three-year, USAID-funded ”Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift” (USAID-STAR) project. The final report was released this week at the U.S. Mission in Kampala.
There has been a 60% average increase in tourism revenues to the UWA; a 27% average increase in household income; an approximately 35% reduction in the number of people living in severe poverty; and an over 20% increase in the number of people whose incomes rose above the poverty line.
Over 148,000 hectares of land important to conservation of Uganda’s rich natural heritage are now under improved management; park infrastructure has been enhanced; new tourism opportunities have been designed; and the job skills of UWA staff and other partners have improved.
The project also supported the UWA to increase tourist visits to Queen Elizabeth National Park by 16%, and created other models for using tourism to support conservation efforts throughout Uganda.
The program achieved its goals of improving tourism, creating business linkages, enhancing awareness of conservation, and contributing to increased household income in the region.
The first phase of the project ran from August 2009 to July 2011, and the second from August 2011 to August 2012. The program focused on local and national-level activities for the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori and Mgahinga National Parks.
USAID works to accelerate Uganda’s economic development by fostering private and public investment in key growth sectors such as tourism. Under its current (2011-2015) Country Development Cooperation Strategy, USAID aims to reduce poverty and hunger, and to support sustainable use of Uganda’s natural resources. The economic growth program focuses on improving management of Uganda’s rich biodiversity through the promotion of eco-tourism, and through the mitigation of the negative environmental impacts of oil exploration and production.