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Uganda Wildlife Authority launches new App to raise resources for conservation

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Uganda Wildlife Authority launches new App to raise resources for conservation

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in collaboration with Home Of Gorillas launched a new mobile app as part of its efforts to use technology to promote the conservation of mountain gorillas in Uganda.

Named the “My Gorilla Family App,” the launch event took place on Tuesday evening at Sheraton Hotel, with Dr Monica Musenero, the Minister for Science, inaugurating the app.

The ceremony attracted dignitaries, including the American Ambassador, H.E Natalie E Brown, State Minister for Tourism, Martin Mugarra, UWA Executive Director, Mr Sam Mwandha, and representatives from the Board of the Home of the Mountain Gorillas organization, a representative from the UNDP among others.

Some of the dignitaries who attended the event at the Sheraton Hotel on Tuesday evening

Minister Mugarra, addressed the gathering, noting the importance of the gorilla conservation initiative and urged all Ugandans to actively contribute to promoting the country’s tourism potential.

He revealed that conservation efforts, particularly within the Mgahinga area, have generated substantial revenue, contributing around 60% or approximately 70 billion Ugandan Shillings from gate collections and related activities.

Minister Mugarra also underlined the positive impact on local communities, mentioning that out of the revenue collected, 4 billion Ugandan Shillings were shared among the communities neighbouring the protected areas.

Minister Mugarra speaking at the launch

“The communities in the three districts mainly Kisoro, Rubanda and Kanungu, out of the revenues that we collected, around shillings 4 billion was shared with them and specifically among the parishes next to the protected areas. We believe that as marketing goes on and more revenue comes in, you will find a district getting 2-3 billion,” said Mugarra.

Mr Bonifence Byamukama, the Chairman of the Board for Horn of the Mountain Gorillas, mentioned that they are currently looking for $380,000 to support gorilla conservation. He expressed his hope that they can gather at least $1 billion.

He explained that conservation is something important all around the world. It’s not just about the animals in the parks; it’s also about taking care of the Batwa, a group of indigenous people in the areas of Mgahinga and Bwindi.

A group of Batwa entertainers led by Businge John a 108-year-old man

Minister Musenero, the chief guest, encouraged Ugandans to download the app and utilize its features by paying a $2 fee. She noted the importance of spreading the app among colleagues and family members, as well as sharing its link on various websites for wider use.

“You can help promote the app even if you don’t spend money directly. By doing this, we can make the app and conservation efforts stronger. We’re aiming to get $380,000 for this, so let’s decide to invest in the app to make it successful. If we all download the app and take our first tour, we can tell our friends about it. We want to support these communities and help them grow,” she said.

Minister Musenero poses for a photo with the Batwa entertainers

UWA Executive Director, Mr Sam Mwandha, shared details about the involvement of Batwa groups in Mgahinga and the southern part of Bwindi in conservation activities. The Batwa, an indigenous group, engage in activities such as cultural showcases and guided trails for tourists. The revenue generated supports their livelihoods and local businesses, contributing to the growth of the entire area’s economy.

“They engage in guided trails and cultural presentations, highlighting historical aspects such as the dwelling places of their leaders and their strategic hideouts during times of conflict. This endeavour generates valuable resources for them, enabling the acquisition of land for agricultural purposes,” Mr Mwandha explained.

UWA Executive Director, Mr Sam Mwandha speaking at the launch

He affirmed that UWA is dedicated to supporting the Batwa’s development, ensuring that being indigenous doesn’t hinder their progress. He said that the My Gorilla Family App is part of UWA’s broader initiatives to enhance the region’s well-being.

“This initiative will also support us in educating the local communities and people from all over the world about the value of protecting these majestic animals, and keeping them for future generations.” – Mr Sam Mwandha added.

David Gonahasa, the Co-Founder of Home Of Gorillas Initiative, explains that the app has a different purpose. It aims to find a new way to support gorilla conservation. In the past, the funding mainly came from tracking and donors. “Our idea is to involve more people in this effort. This way, we can gather more money for conservation,” he states.

The team behind the My Gorilla Family App

He also mentioned that before COVID-19, Uganda used to get $25 million for conservation, but now they don’t receive any money.

Lilly Ajarova, the CEO Uganda Tourism Board, points out that Uganda is dealing with an infrastructure challenge when it comes to promoting gorilla tourism. She stresses the need for proper infrastructure to accommodate visitors who wish to engage in gorilla tracking experiences.

At only a fee of $2 per month, subscribers from around the world can now virtually interact with a gorilla family of their choice on a daily basis, buy NFT and participate in the naming of gorillas. This project is expected to employ up to 300 youth in the next 3 years, skill the community to benefit from gorilla conservation and further generate revenue to boost gorilla tourism to Uganda, which is blessed with more than half of the world’s mountain gorillas.

Sarah K. Biryomumaisho is a Multimedia journalist (Broadcast & Writing) with 11 years of experience. She holds a Diploma in Business Administration from Makerere Business Institute and a Certificate in Media Management from Women in News. She completed a Course in Wikimedia in 2020, making her one of the very few Wikipedia Editors in the country. She also has a certificate in Gender Justice Reporting from The International Women's Media Foundation, IWMF. She has worked with a number of media houses including 6 Radio stations, most recently Galaxy fm 100.2 & Radio 4. She has worked with Andariya Magazine as a writer. Sarah worked as a Digital Communications consultant for the newly revived Uganda Airlines and is also a Digital enthusiast. She owns a Media Organization called TheUgPost that publishes in Uganda and has a global reach. Twitter; https://twitter.com/BiryomumaishoB

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