Potential of Wetlands to Tourism
It seems wetlands have not yet released all their secrets. Not long ago, Bigodi wetland near Kibale National Park in Kamwenge District looked nothing more than a thick mass of papyrus. After interventions by Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED), the tourism and conservation initiatives won the prestigious UNDP’s Equator Initiative Award 2010. This is given to Community Based Organizations and Non-Government Organizations in recognition of their outstanding successes in reducing poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The wetlands form an important wildlife corridor, and are home to more than 200 species of birds and eight species of primates.
According to George Owoyesigire, a member of KAFRED, the local people were able to halt encroachment on the wetland and create guided wildlife trails for tourists. The revenues from tourism have been used in building a secondary school and promoting environmental education in the area, instituting a loan scheme for farming and support to a local women’s group making handicrafts. As the world commemorates the UN World Wetlands Day under the theme, “Wetland tourism-a great experience and the slogan, “responsible tourism supports wetlands and people,” wetlands like Bigodi demonstrate that conservation and improvement of livelihoods move together. “Wetlands have a great contribution to tourism,” says Regina Namakula, the spokesperson for the Wetlands Management Department. “The residents living around the wetlands are able to earn income by selling handicrafts and other products.”
NearKampala, wetlands such as Mabamba and Lutembe around the shores ofLake Victoriaare also being harnessed through eco-tourism and have great potential to turn round the lives of communities in the neighborhood. The only shortcoming is the lack of capacity or skills to make superior wetland products that would help communities earn bigger incomes. In addition to there is the lack of appreciation of wetlands.
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