Category Archives: Uganda

News from the International Population, Health and Environment Conference 2013

Hi, This is Sam,

I recently went to Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, where the International Population, Health and Environment Conference (PHE) 2013 was being held. I attended this annual convention along with many civil society organizations, government officials, researchers and donors from across the world. We gathered to share, learn, network and identify the needs and priorities of PHE advocates and organizers.

The conference was spread over two days and offered many interesting seminars such as “Integrating PHE in rural agricultural interventions among small holder farmers”, or “Sustaining and scaling up PHE interventions in and around national parks in Uganda”. We also discussed how we can raise the profile of our PHE efforts and results as this could increase new donor interest in our projects.

Overall, it was a pretty amazing and very informative event, and it was incredible to see PHE members from all over the world working together towards the same goal of improving PHE’s global projects. My positive experience makes me look forward to next year’s conference – but don’t worry until then I will of course keep you posted with news about other projects and events that are happening down here in Africa!

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Meet Regina!

Hi, this is Sam,

DSCN0569Just recently I went to see my college Regina in Kisoro, a town in Western Uganda.  Regina is our Field Officer and an expert when it comes to gardening and teaching farmers about organic sustainable agriculture. Her role is very important as her training allows local communities to grow their own food, which not only enables them to feed their own families but also provides a source of income to farmers who decide to sell their crops.

Regina has been working for our organization for more than 7 years and is very passionate about her job. Over the years she has overseen the training of more than 11,000 farmers, including many reformed poachers, teaching them about the importance of agriculture and its potential to alleviate poverty in Uganda. Her dedication to the job has helped many communities around the Virunga Mountains and has made her a vital and much-valued member of our organization.

Here are a few pictures of here in action, visiting local schools and teaching students how they can grow their own organic crops in a sustainable manner rather than rely on the resources of the nearby forest, which is home to Uganda’s critically-endangered mountain gorillas. The pictures were taken by a young Englishman called Luke, who showed great interest in our work. If you too are ever in Uganda and want to see our projects in action – or just want to say hello – then do get in touch as we’d love to hear from you!

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Strategy meeting in Kampala!

 

Hi, this is Tuver,

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I am currently in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, attending the annual staff strategy meeting of our organization. The purpose of this meeting is to reflect on the projects and achievements of 2013 as well as to plan new and better strategies and projects to save gorillas, for the year ahead of us.

Among the attendees we had our Chairman Ian Redmond and Executive Director Jilian Miller as well as our DR Congo Program Manager Henry, and our Program Managers Emmanuel and Sam who came in from Rwanda and Uganda (see picture above).

It is really exciting to see everybody again and to work together on our objectives for 2014. The determination by my colleges to help, not only the gorillas but also the local communities here in central Africa who suffer poverty, is amazing and makes me look forward to the New Year!

Thank you all for your ongoing support and as always I will keep you updated with the latest news on our work here in Africa.

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Celebrating the success of the Wildlife Clubs in Uganda

Pupils planting trees outside one of the schools where the Wildlife Club takes place

Pupils planting trees outside one of the schools where the Wildlife Club takes place

Hi this is Sam,

As you might know, we are celebrating the 12th anniversary of one of our key projects in Africa, The Wildlife Clubs in Uganda. It’s been 12 years since The Gorilla Organization joined forces with this project, which is aimed at educating young people on environmental issues.

The purpose of the partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority was to help spread the wildlife clubs in schools that surround the habitat where the gorillas live as well as to raise awareness on the importance of preserving the gorilla and its habitat.

Ever since this project was implemented, specifically in Southwest Uganda, hundreds of activities have taken place including: planting trees and vegetables in school gardens, arts, crafts, music, drama and dance lessons, screening of wildlife documentaries, discussions and competitions. It’s amazing to see the excitement of all the pupils of the clubs that have joined us as well as the development they have raised on environmental awareness, including the protection and conservation of gorillas!

So far, 78 Wildlife Clubs have been established in Uganda and more than 3,000 pupils have become members. Also members and teachers have had the opportunity to take part in excursions to the Mgahinga National Park, where they gained first-hand experience of conservation in action.

I will keep you posted with more amazing news from this project!

Social activities to raise environmental awareness on the pupils

Social activities to raise environmental awareness on the pupils

The excitement and joy of pupils after having their session

The excitement and joy of pupils after having their session

The Solar Sisters are back!

The excitement and happiness of our ladies arriving at the airport

The excitement and happiness of our ladies arriving at the airport

Hi this is Emmanuel,

After a hard six months of training, our special team of ladies, The Solar Sisters from Rwanda, are back and ready to bring electricity to their home villages!

In March 2012, the Gorilla Organization, along with the Government of Rwanda ,UNESCO and the Government of India sent a team of four illiterate women to India to receive special training at the Barefoot College to become solar energy engineers. This project will be benefiting two sectors including Musanze of Musanze district, (Northern Province of Rwanda) and Bugeshi of Rubavu district (Western Province of Rwanda).

If you remember, a few months ago, the first team of Solar Sisters from DR Congo came back from the training in India and successfully installed electricity in the Rusayo village. They also held a couple of demonstrations in Burusi and Ngitse and the plan was to solar electrify 50 houses in each of the two villages surrounding Mount Tshiabirimu (area of Virunga National Park, DR Congo).

The Solar Ladies from Rwanda arrived in mid-September at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda and the excitement took over the place as you can see in the photographs. They were so happy to come back to their families and friends, but most importantly for having learned so much bringing along a lot of benefits to their villages, like giving the children the possibility of study after it’s gone dark and their parents the chance to work past dusk.

I will be sure to keep you posted with more news and updates about this, but for now let’s congratulate our ladies for coming back home safe and sound and for their great achievement in becoming experts in solar energy!

Solar Sisters arriving at Enttebe airport in Uganda

Solar Sisters arriving at Enttebe airport in Uganda

Interest in pedal-powered cinema keeps on growing!

Pupils taking part of the pedal-powered cinema in Kabale

Pupils taking part of the pedal-powered cinema in Kabale

Hi, this is Tuver,

Out of all the projects and initiatives that the Gorilla Organization undertakes in Africa, the Pedal-Powered Cinema is becoming more and more popular among members of the local communities of Uganda.

The idea of having an adapted bicycle that, when pedalled, produces enough power to screen films has been drawing people’s attention and interest and the results speak by themselves!

According to our latest report, 5,581 people from the communities of the Kabale district –western Uganda- took part in the film screenings that were held in 11 schools.

Aside from educating people by screening conservation and wildlife documentaries and great apes documentaries, the communities took part in a range of different activities. At each school, 30 seedlings were supplied and planted to encourage the school community plant more trees and to launch tree planting in the schools that had no tree planting activities. A total of 30 guava, mango and orange trees were planted!

The interest of participants has been also expressed to our staff as many of them have asked about the possibility of someone coming to give them environmental talks. The success of the Pedal-powered Cinema is reflected in the following photographs where you can see a lot of pupils very keen in taking part of this activity!

The last screening took place in schools around Kabale district

The last screening took place in schools around Kabale district

 

Pupils planted guava, mango and orange trees

Pupils planted guava, mango and orange trees

 

Pupils were very keen planting on trees at the Kabale schools' district

Pupils were very keen on planting trees at the Kabale schools’ district

Uganda’s Got Talent: Searching for the next solar sisters!

Crowds gathered as we explained the aims of the Solar Sisters project to the village

Crowds gathered to hear the aims of the Solar Sisters project to the village

Hi, this is Sam,

I’ve just got back from a trip Kagandu, one of the many small villages dotted along the border of the Mgahinga National Park here in Uganda. Here, along with my Gorilla Organization colleague Regina, I was exploring the possibility of getting the community involved in our Solar Sisters project, which is already on track to transform hundreds of lives in four different villages across the border in DR Congo.

Certainly, Kagandu meets the criteria for being considered for the project. The Barefoot College in India, where women are trained in solar engineering skills, requires communities to be without a reliable source of electricity and likely to be without one for the foreseeable future. Well, let me tell you that Kagandu definitely ticks this box! It’s a full hour’s walk from the nearest main road and none of the 380 houses here have ever been fully electrified.

But what Kagandu may lack in infrastructure, it more than makes up for in spirit! The village chairperson welcomed us with open arms and even said she felt her community had been blessed by God to have this opportunity to become electrified! After a brief introduction, we held a productive meeting with several leading members of the community, in which they put forward two women to become Solar Sisters. They also agreed to provide funds to pay the ladies to maintain the village’s solar equipment upon their return from India.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this project extended into Uganda. Having access to electricity is a basic human right, and so to know that this village will soon have what so many of us take for granted is truly a cause for celebration. What’s more, I’m optimistic about how this project will benefit the gorillas living in the Mgahinga National Park. For too long now, people living in villages such as Kagandu have been forced by poverty to enter the protected forests for food and other resources. By allowing them to work and study after it gets dark and even to set up their own small enterprises, solar power will help them pull themselves out of poverty and will mean they will no longer be so reliant on the precious gorilla habitat.

Here are a few more pictures I took from my recent trip. I promise to keep you informed of all the latest developments and, on behalf of everyone in Kagandu, I thank you for your wonderful support!

Here's the initial report I made when I assessed how the village could benefit from solar power

The report I made to assess how the village could benefit from solar power

Members of community were asked to nominate the ladies they thought should go to India

The village nominates the ladies they feel should go to India...

Once the nominations were in, we chose our next Solar Sisters!

...and then, we choose our next Solar Sisters!

So, how do you count mountain gorillas?

Mountain gorillas are extremely shy, so researchers are counting their night nests to work out how many live in Bwindi

Gorillas are extremely shy, so researchers are count night nests to work out how many live here

Hi, this is Sam,

As some of you may know, a mountain gorilla census is currently being carried out in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest here in Uganda. The count will allow us to see how well the gorillas living in this national park are doing and, just as importantly, will help us see what more needs to be done to safeguard these remarkable creatures for generations to come.

Now, counting gorillas is no easy task and it’s certainly not simply a matter of asking them to fill in a form like you have with a human census! Not only is Bwindi vast, the vegetation here is also extremely dense. Meanwhile, the gorillas themselves are understandably wary of humans and so all but the few habituated groups living here will retreat into the forests if they hear people coming.

So, how do you count mountain gorillas? Well, the most important thing to realise is that the researchers are not actually on the lookout for gorillas as such. Rather, they look for the clues they leave behind as they roam through the dense forest. Thankfully, being heavy and walking on all-fours, gorillas leave an easily detectable trail of flattened vegetation for researchers to follow. Once they have found the spot where the group they are researching spent the night, the team will get to work. Firstly, they’ll count the number of night nests dotted around the site, with this allowing them to put a figure on group size – though it’s worth remembering an infant will share a nest with its mother up until the age of two. Alongside this, the team will also look out for any distinctive silver hairs that may have been left behind by an alpha male and then they will also measure and collect samples of the dung left behind by the group. This last but may seem a bit yucky, but it’s a great way of determining the sex and age of a group’s members. What’s more, taking some samples back for analysis in a laboratory should help us check for signs of parasites, bacteria and even the presence of human viruses among these wild gorillas.

As I’m sure you can appreciate, this is no overnight process. Instead, it will be several months before we know the results of this latest census. For now, all we can do is cross our fingers, hope for the best and carry on with our efforts to help both the gorillas and the communities living alongside their forest home.

Relfecting on a good year and making plans for 2012..

Here is a picture from the meeting. From left to right you can see: Emmanuel, our Rwandan Programme Manager,  Sam, our Ugandan Programme Manager and Henry, our Congolese Programme Manager, and Jillian Miller, our Executive Director

Here is a picture from the meeting. From left to right you can see: Emmanuel, our Rwandan Programme Manager, Sam, our Ugandan Programme Manager and Henry, our Congolese Programme Manager, and Jillian Miller, our Executive Director

Hi, this is Tuver,

I’ve just got back to Goma after going to Kampala to attend the Gorilla Organization’s annual strategy meeting. As always, it was great to catch up with my colleagues from other countries and talk about how our respective projects are helping transform communities and safeguard gorillas. It’s really inspiring to see everyone working towards a common goal and to see how your generous support is helping make a real difference in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo.

Joined by our director Jillian Miller, we began the meeting discussing what we have achieved over the past 12 months and it was clear from listening to my colleagues that our conservation and poverty reduction projects have continued to meet, and in some cases even exceed, their targets.

We also talked about our plans for the year ahead. We are hoping to implement more than 20 projects across the three countries in 2012, all of them geared towards helping both the gorillas and the people who live alongside their forest home. Activities supported will include beekeeping in Kisoro, Uganda, conservation radio programmes in Goma, DR Congo and agricultural training in Rwanda.

It’ll certainly be a busy, and hopefully a highly-productive, year! I look forward to keeping you updated with news on our work here in Africa and thank you for your ongoing support.

Kisoro Queen Bee Rearing Centre a hive of activity…

Tom Munyakibina welcomed me to the Kisoro Queen Bee Rearing Centre

Tom Munyakibina welcomed me to the Kisoro Queen Bee Rearing Centre

Hi, this is Tuver,

Just recently, I paid a visit to the Queen Bee Rearing Centre in Kisoro District, Uganda. Set up by the Gorilla Organization in 2009, this exciting initiative is making a real difference to the lives of local communities and helping to ease the pressure being placed on the gorillas’ forest home.

Rather than heading into the Mgahinga National Park to set up hives in the trees there, the centre allows the district’s beekeepers to do this away from the gorillas’ protected habitat. Under the guidance of Tom Munyakibina and Francis Sekabuga, keepers are taught the latest techniques, enabling them to increase their own yields. At present, the centre’s hives are producing 90kg of honey per season, with this collected over the course of three weeks.

Additionally, Tom and Francis are successfully breeding queen bees, meaning communities across the Kisoro District will be able to benefit from their own hives, providing them with a sustainable and gorilla-friendly source of food and income!

Below you can see a couple of pictures I took on my visit…

Just some of the Gorilla Organization's many hives that are helping to ease the pressure on gorilla habitat

Some of the Gorilla Organization's many hives helping to ease the pressure on gorilla habitat

Tom was keen to show me how the centre is enjoying an upturn in honey production

Tom was keen to show me how the centre is enjoying an upturn in honey production