Conservation, Livelihoods, and Tourism: A Case Study of the Buhoma-Mukono Community- Based Tourism Project in Uganda
Keywords:Community-based tourism, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, sustainable livelihood framework, livelihood assets, Uganda
AbstractIn developing countries, communities neighboring protected areas continue to bear a disproportionate amount of the costs associated with conservation. Traditional community livelihood strategies such as hunting, logging, and plant harvesting are seen as major threats to protected areas. Therefore, protected area management policies in Africa have evolved beyond the traditional model of strict biodiversity conservation to incorporate improvement of local livelihoods. The underlying principle is that conservation management contributes to community development and that markets should play a role in shaping incentives for conservation. With the Sustainable Livelihood Framework (SLF) as a guide, this paper discusses the implications of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park’s (BINP) community-based tourism (CBT) venture in Mukono on local livelihoods. The study made use of extensive documentary review, key stakeholder interviews, focus group discussions, and informal interviews, transect walks and observations. The findings overall indicate that BINP arrangement in Mukono with local communities has succeeded in stimulating local employment, generating income, providing local social services and funding of other development projects. Results clearly suggest that BINP community tourism venture successfully contributed to resolving the conflict between the community’s livelihood and the protected area’s conservation needs and reduced the vulnerability of the community. We argue that there are at least three reasons why the Buhoma-Mukono model is an exception to the many other CBT arrangements that have generally failed elsewhere. First, there are practical reasons for its relative success: its location, its direct access to the market and good visibility on the Internet, and its ability to compete with and to offer an alternative to high-end and expensive lodges in the neighborhood. Second, the Buhoma-Mukono venture is well integrated in a set of other tourism, as well as non-tourism (e.g., education, agriculture development programs) related conservation and development interventions. Third and most importantly, the Buhoma-Mukono CBT arrangement shows the importance of sound institutional pre-conditions, which effectively contribute to the realization of the desired policy outcomes. In this case, especially the institutional framework of the Buhumo-Mukono Community Development Association has positively shaped people’s livelihood capital assets, which in turn has positively influenced livelihood outcomes in terms of jobs, income, and well-being. For community tourism ventures to be successful, they need to be coupled with other conservation and development interventions, be built upon strong institutional pre-conditions, and should meet the basic benchmarks of any other viable tourism enterprise.
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