Kenneth Tumusiime is a real conservation hero. His work with local communities in the Murchison Falls area of Uganda is producing fantastic results. His efforts have galvanised local people to value the wildlife that share their environment and has engendered in them a real pride and sense of ownership. He is a true ambassador for what considered, workable and sustainable conservation should encompass. Kenneth maps exactly on to WingSearch values and here he tells his own story….
My Name is Kenneth Tumusiime, Founder of Murchison Falls Community Eco-Tourism and Conservation Association (METCCAS). I am also a professional, experience and knowledgeable, friendly Tourist Safari Bird Guide Specialist who is a keen wildlife photographer. I am passionate about travel with good working experience of 12 Yrs in tourism and wildlife conservation. I am married with 4 children. I am a very responsible and dynamic person, self motivated and result oriented with strong interpersonal conduct and integrity. Those, and a wish to learn are the major values that make me.
Can you explain for us how the Murchison Falls Community Ecotourism and Conservation Association came into being? What are its aims and how does it function?
Murchison Falls Community Eco-Tourism & Conservation Association (METCCAS) is a community based organization legally registered with Buliisa District Community Development Office and CD/012/011/12 is its Identity Number. It was formed by a team of dedicated community members involved in various environmental, conservation and Eco-tourism enterprise development activities around Murchison Falls National Park, a key biodiversity area in Uganda. The overall goal is of excelling in nature protection and creating opportunities for sustainable lives. The inception of METCCAS was as a result of noted impact of human activities as a pandemic on natural resources and eco-systems.
These are some of its aims/goals
1. Conservation and Eco-Tourism enterprise development goal.
- To manage and utilize METCCAS properties for conservation and eco-tourism purposes.
- To identify current conservation and eco-tourism issues.
- To initiate and promote programs to preserve and protect natural resources
2. Educational goal:
- To utilize METCCAS office space as an educational outreach Centre.
- To expand and diversify METCCAS field trips
- To encourage members to fully participate in METCCAS outreach programs
- To increase attendance at all community programs
- To promote early child education
3. Economic goal:
- To initiate and promote poverty alleviation programs.
4. Research goal:
- To work collaboratively with other organizations to support future research
5. Expansion goal:
- To plan, initiate, and implement fundraising and fund handling strategies.
- To increase METCCAS membership.
- To encourage and convince METCCAS members to take an active role in the Association.
- To increase public awareness of METCCAS, its mission, vision and its activities.
6. Diversity goal:
- To participate in more local community events which attract a diverse audience.
- To pursue local business.
- To work collaboratively with other local groups and promote our core program
Empowering local people with a sense of ownership through education is central to your work. Can you explain why you believe this is so important?
Eco-tourism Enterprise is a nature-based activity. Our first-time ecotourism entrepreneurs are more willing to take action in starting a new venture and they don’t fear the potentially low costs of failure. A small ecotourism enterprise gives ecotourism enterprise owners an immediate kick-start in improving their family’s standard of living. Profits generated from their new ecotourism enterprise can be used to address critical family needs (like food, medicine and school fees) and build capital and savings for their fledgling enterprise.
Can you provide an example of how your work has made a real difference to the conservation efforts for a particular species?
Yes, placing bee hives at the boundary has helped to reduce poaching of wildlife such as buffaloes and elephants which nowadays do not cross to community land. They have moved far deeper inside the park.
Can you describe the main challenges you continue to face in your work to conserve the wild creatures and wild spaces of the region?
There is still human/wildlife conflicts in some areas where animals do cross from protected area to the community land and destroy their crops. In turn, the community gets involved in killing them by poisoning and spearing. In most cases these animals, such as lion, elephants, buffaloes, baboons, crocodiles and hippos, attack them and end up injuring or even killing people in these areas
How important is tourism to your work? What do you think would happen if tourists were prevented from visiting (the Lockdown is a prime example I’m guessing)?
Tourism has created a good relationship between our community members and park management. People now have a good feeling and they are advocating for the protection of this national park jealously. They even report those still involved in illegal activities such as poaching or encroaching park land for agriculture. It has therefore changed the community mindset to realizing the value of conservation for the benefit of tourists. Without tourism, people would revert to poaching and the associated degradation of the environment. This is because people would have no income, so they will automatically resort to poaching in order to get food for their families. They will also resort to degradable activities like charcoal burning as a business to raise money.
Uganda is a safe and stable country. Can you describe the facilities on offer to visitors, some of the special wildlife they can see and the best places to visit for wildlife watching?
- Gorillas are the major Tourist attraction in Uganda, the largest population of these endangered species are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park here in Uganda
- Tree Climbing Lions in the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park
- The highest population of endangered graceful Rothschild’s giraffes in Murchison Falls National Park
- The Highest Population of Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, regarded as the primate capital of the world
- The best birding opportunities, which ranks Uganda as the best birding destination and a Birder’s haven with more than 1082 species of birds recorded. This includes species such as Shoebill in Murchison Falls, Mabamba swamp, Lake Mburo National parks. Currently in all the national parks you can find Green-breasted Pitta, African green Broadbill, Pel’s fishing owl, Egyptian Plover, African Skimmers. You can also find several West African forest endemics in Semuliki National Park and the neighbouring Ituri forest in Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Rhino tracking on foot at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and these are the only remaining Rhinos in the wild here in Uganda.
- Enjoying a memorable boat cruise along the Victoria Nile to the bottom of Murchison Falls, the most powerful waterfalls in the world. Here, and at the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park, you will have fantastic views of Nile crocodiles basking just at the banks with their mouth open just meters away. These areas are also teeming with hippos and buffaloes and have commanding views.
- Huge herds of Buffaloes, Elephants, and several antelopes. Big cats such as Lions, Leopards and Cheetahs in Kidepo Valley, Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo National Parks for the best game drives and safari experiences
How can people reading this help support your work?
We are calling upon all the people across the globe to come in and support our efforts in promoting a comprehensive nature protection programme, and creating opportunities for sustainable lives. They can come in to support our programs as volunteers, donors or even partner with us in promoting Eco-Tourism Enterprises and Conservation.
You are a qualified wildlife/safari guide. What do you consider to be the most rewarding element of that work?
Being the good Ambassador and spending more time with visiting tourists to East Africa, I have made so many friends and advocates for conservation for for nature to remain intact.
What do you consider to be your greatest success?
I take pride in working with all stakeholders with influence on environmental/ conservation management and economic empowerment in line with government structures. Above all, I engage fully the community in promotion of environmental conservation and economic development in the most sustainable manner.
What would you consider to be your deepest regret?
Delay in deciding to advocate for Eco-tourism enterprise for my people.
Off track drive in the National park when I had just started guiding.
Who or what are your heroes/heroines/greatest Inspirations?
Sir David Frederick Attenborough, an English broadcaster and Natural Historian with BBC Natural History Unit.
Recall your most exciting or memorable wildlife spotting encounter.
It was after I encountered 8 shoebills all in one spot at Albert Delta in Murchison Falls National Park, which I had never encountered before in my life as a Bird Guide Specialist.
Also, I watched a baboon rough off a leopard which had grabbed its baby. It was brutal. The whole troop of baboons came and roughed off the determined leopard which became helpless and lost. This has remained in my mind forever.
What new aspects of conservation excite you?
Community Conservation approach excites me, realizing that national park/Wildlife protected areas cannot be managed with exclusion of the neighbouring communities
What are your hobbies/interests outside of wildlife?
Listening to Country gospel music
What makes you happy?
Seeing people getting to work together to save nature
What makes you sad?
Seeing mature, grown up citizens destroy nature. It makes me sad and sick.
What would you most like to accomplish and/or be remembered for?
I have a challenging and inspiring call to improve on the quality of nature by enabling people to do more in an environmentally sustainable manner and live better.
What’s next for the project? What future initiatives can we look forward to?
- To increase METCCAS membership
- To make partnerships with which METCCAS’s overall goal would be achieved.
- To set up community owned modern eco- lodging facilities for the executive clients.
- To strengthen major eco-tourism activities “craft shopping, traditional dance shows, village walks, village home and camping, traditional foods service and museum for traditional equipment”
- To make use of more land for further environmental friendly investments.
- To economically empower at least 95% of the communities living around Murchison Falls National Park and completely save nature.
- To engage in more financial transactions and increase on the METCCAS revenue.
- To increase employment opportunities for the local communities
Thank you Kenneth for that inspiring story. There is obviously much more to come and we look forward to hearing about how your future plans develop and bear fruit. Uganda is obviously a fascinating, wildlife rich country with plenty to offer tourists from around the world.
My friend Allan Archer has recorded an interview with Kenneth which explains how METCCAS was formed, its work and future aspirations. It’s a worthwhile listen to.
I would urge anyone that is interested in this worthwhile initiative to become involved. Visit the Facebook Page and see how you can help.