Eco-Tourism Partnership Projects
Through these projects the VSPT helps to link Kyambura Gorge Lodge to the local community and helps promote sustainable eco-tourism and conservation in one of the most important areas for avian, primate and wildlife biodiversity in Africa. Initiatives include not only those listed below but also a series of smaller projects with the local schools, teaching them of the benefits of tourism and the natural value of the wildlife diversity in the area. The project is the first of its kind in the area and is an example of the pioneering work conducted by the VSPT.
Chimpanzee Naming Ceremony
The first ever Chimpanzee Naming Ceremony at Fig Tree Camp in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, took place on the 18th July, during which four baby chimps were named. The Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT) presented the Fig Tree staff with four pairs of binoculars, acquired the previous year, to assist them in their continued monitoring of the chimpanzees.
The dramatically beautiful Kyambura Gorge is home to a single, isolated, community of twenty-four chimpanzees. Research conducted by the VSPT Coordinator, Nicole Simmons (between 2006-2009) as part of a PhD study on the ranging patterns and feeding ecology of the chimps revealed that the population suffered a substantial decline and became isolated between 1995 – 2006. A Peace Corps census conducted in 1995 reported twenty seven chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge but by the time Nicole’s research began in 2006 the numbers had dropped to just fifteen individuals.
Women’s Omwani Coffee Co-Operative
The Omwani Women’s Coffee Cooperative is a community-based initiative designed to provide vocational training to women and an alternative, but sustainable, source of income. Eleven local women and their families are actively involved in the cooperative. At least 30% of the group is HIV positive and many are widowed. They tend to over 1,500 Arabica and Robusta coffee plants in 100 acres of rejuvenated VSPT land, and process the coffee by hand at a communal processing plant. Members of the cooperative commit to growing the coffee organically, without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
The coffee is sold to Volcanoes Safaris and served in all of our eco-luxury African Safari lodges. The coffee tours are also a popular tourism attraction for Volcanoes Safaris guests, who can see how African coffees are harvested and processed before sampling the ‘best cup of coffee in Uganda’.
The coffee plantation also acts as a buffer zone between the protected area of the gorge and local farmlands, reducing animal / human conflict.
Omumashaka Dance Group
The Omumashaka Drama and Dance Group is made up of 30 members ranging from 12-50 years old, from the Omumashaka Village, near Queen Elizabeth National Park in South West Uganda. Roughly 20% of the group suffers from HIV/AIDS.
Representing five local tribes, the group performs educational plays about conservation and HIV/AIDS awareness to the people of the local community once a month, as well as to Volcanoes Safaris guests staying at Kyambura Gorge Lodge.
Led by the enigmatic Robert, the group uses the medium of dance to promote education and awareness of local issues as well as providing a great show for guests at the Kyambura Gorge Lodge.
In June 2014, in partnership with the Kyambura Women’s Coffee Cooperative and the local community, the VSPT opened a non-profit training café. The café will provide a practical training institution for local youths, both male and female, who are disadvantaged as a result of the loss of parents, HIV/AIDS, or physical or mental disabilities.
The training not only aims to provide practical experience to create more job opportunities in the region, but also to improve access to services, medication and healthcare thereby reducing the risk of transmitting HIV through education and providing training for a sustainable livelihood.
The VSPT plans to take ten interns on a quarterly basis for both theoretical and practical training. Volcanoes Safaris guests staying at Kyambura Gorge Lodge can enjoy a coffee tour followed by a hearty homemade brunch with freshly brewed coffee served at the café, or a delicious pizza from the wood-burning oven for tours in the afternoon.
Empundu Community Playground
Opened in November 2010, the playground was built by members of the community on land purchased by the VSPT located near the Kyambura Gorge Lodge and Queen Elizabeth National Park. The playground provides a safe environment for local children to play and a focal point for the local community.
The area is used for football, netball and the local Kyenzaza Primary School’s fitness lessons. By supporting the local community, the VSPT seeks to encourage conservation of chimpanzees and other local wildlife. In March 2012, the VSPT sponsored uniforms for the Kyenzaza Men’s and Women’s Football Teams and Kyenzaza Primary School’s boys’ team. In return for these uniforms, the teams are being trained how to maintain the ground on their own.
Rusty Roof Exchange
In 2011, the VSPT partnered with Kyambura Gorge Lodge to provide new roofs for families in the Kyambura area, situated near Queen Elizabeth National Park in South West Uganda. The project provided five family homes and one primary school with new roofs between June and December 2011. In March 2012 Kirungu and Kichiwamba primary schools and a mosque in Kyenzaza were also re-roofed. The iron sheets were purchased by the VSPT and the Volcanoes Safaris construction team provided transport and helped with the removal and installation of the new roofs. The new roofs will help keep the families dry and healthy during the rainy seasons, improving their welfare through VSPT support. Families who benefited from the initiative were single parents raising children orphaned by AIDS or caring for physically disabled or HIV-positive family members.
Bee-Keeping Training and Fences
In January 2012 the VSPT, in association with Malaika Honey, organised beekeeping training. The course provided apiary management, care and harvesting information to fifteen members of the Omumashaka Bee Keepers Co-Operative, who have been producing honey in Kyambura since 2006. The local farmers were taught the necessary skills to become commercial beekeepers through practical, on-site training. The hives have been set up to create a fence surrounding farmers’ land, helping to deter elephants from raiding the crops and reducing human-wildlife conflict as elephants detest bees. Sales of honey and fees paid by international visitors help make the project sustainable and increase the livelihood of local people.
The VSPT, in partnership with the Mvule Trust, is constructing a tree nursery and conservation outreach program in the Kyambura area, located near Kyambura Gorge Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda.
The tree nursery aims to establish a large nursery of 400,000 indigenous trees on VSPT land adjacent to the national park. The young trees will be handed out to community members living in the National Park and also planted in the VSPT 100 acre restoration area along the Kyambura Gorge.
The Kyambura area is one of the most densely populated communities neighbouring Queen Elizabeth National Park. Communities in this area have depleted most of their natural resources including trees, wetland and clean waterways. The forestry team will lead education programs at local primary schools so that children may learn the importance of trees to our environment and how to plant and care for them from a very early age.
Omumashaka Wetland Restoration
The VSPT secured 30-acres of wetland south of the Volcanoes Safaris Kyambura Gorge Lodge. The wetland, which previously had been used as an illegal brick works, is now regenerating rapidly back to its natural state. The rejuvenated wetlands now attract over 100 species of birds and the sight is used to train members of the community in birding and guiding. This project has been a key success for the VSPT, particularly regarding its ecosystem conservation efforts given the amount of species that have now repopulated the area: new entries are added to the spotters’ lists almost daily!
Over 500 indigenous trees have also been replanted along the banks of the Kyambura River. Due to human encroachment and habitat destruction over the past twenty years, hundreds of trees along the riverbank were cut down leading to soil erosion and water pollution.
Community outreach and guide training take place throughout the year with the objective of establishing a pool of qualified local guides who can lead tours of the wetland. A trail system is maintained throughout the wetland and guided walks are available to Volcanoes Safaris clients.