Ms. Diana Museveni Kyaremera, yesterday, December 7, 2023 spearheaded the inaugural fundraising drive for the Uganda Chimpanzee Conservation strategy at State House, Entebbe.
In partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute and the tourism industry, she extended her gratitude towards the well wishers who honored her invitation and attended the fundraising dinner in support of the chimpanzee conservation strategy.
During the fundraising dinner, Ms. Kyaremera made a case for saving the chimpanzees from a tourism perspective. She emphasized the critical need to protect the chimpanzees for future generations, rallying the invited guests to contribute to the conservation strategy in order to ensure the existence of the endangered species.
Ms. Kyaremera praised the strides made by the tourism industry, noting that tourism contributes significantly to Uganda’s GDP, accounting for over 7% and employing 6.7% of the national workforce.
She highlighted the sector’s resilience, quoting World Travel and Tourism Council statistics predicting a focus on earnings of $9.5 trillion, showcasing recovery despite global economic challenges.
She continued to mention : “As much as tonight is about conservation , I would like to take the opportunity to celebrate our tourism industry , we have taken some substantial hits as an industry , mainly due to the COVID -19 pandemic so I think it is important as an industry to come together to celebrate the fact that we have overcome major setbacks and we are still standing,” .
Before the pandemic, Diana noted that the industry employed over 334 million people around the world but due to the pandemic, 70 million people lost their jobs. Nevertheless, by 2022, 32.6 million new jobs had been created in the industry.
The chief guest and host, His Excellency, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni commended Ms. Diana Kyaremera’s commitment to wildlife conservation.
The president highlighted Uganda’s unique conservation, pointing out the many national parks and game reserves. He underscored the distinctive combination of latitude and altitude in Uganda, the diverse flora and fauna unseen elsewhere and emphasizing the importance of preserving this unique ecosystem.
“A number of countries are on the Equator, but the uniqueness of Uganda is that while we are at the equator, we also have a high altitude, the lowest part of Uganda in the Rift valley is about 600 meters above sea level and the highest part is 5000m above sea level, that is how you end up with permanent snow on the Equator. This combination of latitude and altitude gives us flora and fauna which is really unique, so you Ugandans who are fighting for conservation, you need to know that”, he said.
President Museveni advised a shift towards structural conservation, integrating economic development with wildlife protection.
He urged for societal transformation, moving towards a middle-class society and skilled working class in order to reduce the reliance on agriculture.
“Now, I have heard your target that you are collecting money to help the communities around the parks and so on, and persuade them into being friendly to the animals. My advise to the conservationists is that in order to have structured conservation, you must work for the social economic metamorphosis of African societies, part of the damage done to Africa by colonialism in the last 600 years because the Europeans have been disturbing us since then,” he said .
The president further noted : “This is the problem we are living with today, when we talk about wild life human conflict, we mean the peasants, they are the ones who are fighting invading conservation habitats, so therefore you the conservatives, listen carefully to my advice, if you are going to have less confrontational conservation, work for the social economic metamorphosis of society”.
The president therefore emphasized the need for the African society to evolve into a middle class society and skilled working class society citing that the peasants depend on primitive agriculture which means that they underutilize land.
In his opinion, the president said that there are two dangers of conservation, including underdevelopment of the peasants who have continuously underutilized land with agriculture and lack of electrification.
“In order to save the environment, the chimpanzees and the forest, we move work towards electrification of Africa and Latin-America and then for the crags in the structure of society. When you do that, then it will help you to protect the forests, wetlands which are habitats for the wild animals, “ he advised .
It should be noted that the Albertine Rift region, including Kibale National Park, Budongo Forest Reserve, and Queen Elizabeth National Park, among others, serves as crucial habitat for these primates.
Currently, Uganda is home to around 5,000 chimpanzees and 1,500 live in Kibale Forest.
The Minister of Tourism, Hon. Col. (Rtd). Tom Butime, highlighted the endangered status of chimpanzees, emphasizing the importance of innovative financing mechanisms for wildlife conservation.
The minister assured transparent utilization of funds, emphasizing the government’s commitment to protect endangered species.
Dr. Jane Goodall, in a video message, praised Uganda’s dedication to wildlife conservation despite growing threats.
She emphasized the need for collaboration with local communities and outlined the increasing conflict between humans and chimpanzees due to habitat destruction.
“As the case everywhere, chimpanzees in Uganda face threats especially habitat distraction, trafficking and others despite the efforts done by the government, conservation rangers, NGO’s and most especially the local communities that have all played their part in efforts to protect our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees from these dangers,” she said .
Mr. Sam Mwadha, Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, affirmed the commitment to chimpanzee conservation, noting the financial contributions from tourism-related activities.
He said that annual revenue from chimpanzee conservation in Uganda currently stands at sh30 billion.
“In the year 2022/23, the authority collected sh 228.3billion that to me is small, but you need to look at it pre COVID when we thought we had had the highest figures in 2018/2019 was only sh120b, so we are already seeing that we are surpassing the pre- COVID levels and we are properly recovering and we hope that we can continue in the same manner,” he said.
He added that the direct revenue to the UWA on chimpanzees along for the past 10 financial years amid average sh6b per year, saying that this last financial year 2022/23, the country reached sh12.6b meaning that we have multiplied it almost four times and eat there was a dip in 2021 and 2022 because of COVID-19.
Mr. Mwadha added that as Uganda aims to safeguard its national treasures, the fundraising initiative marks a crucial step towards ensuring the survival and prosperity of chimpanzees in the region.
Meanwhile, the fundraising event saw generous contributions from the invited guest including Shs1Billion from President Museveni.
The event was also attended by the French Ambassador to Uganda, His Excellency, Xavier Sticker, the European Union Head of Delegation to Uganda, His Excellency, Jan Sadek, Mrs. Natasha Museveni Karugire, the Executive Director of Jane Goodall Institute, Uganda,Mr. James Byamukama among others.