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Bwindi National Park

June 3, 2017
Harold Goodwin
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Conservation in crisis: why Covid-19 could push mountain gorillas back to the brink  Guardian 5 May 2020
The Change A Life Bwindi charity trains former poachers in beekeeping, mothers in basket weaving, and teenage girls unable to afford school in tailoring. These income-generating activities emphasise the advantages of living near a thriving gorilla population to which cash-rich westerners are drawn daily.

Evelyn Habasa: providing livelihoods for women in rural Uganda  Geographical 24 February 2020

December 2018
The Bwindi Collection 2017-2018. Developing the capacity of community groups to produce high-quality handicraftsProject report

August 2018 update

The BATWA's Trails & Specialists Guides are ready to welcome you …

There are now three new Nature, Culture, Lifestyle and Birdlife trails around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as well as a cadre of seven, specially trained guides who have been deeply involved in developing these new experiences.  All the trails are different with a great mix of people and their lifestyles in the setting of the spectacular countryside with diverse birds and other wildlife.

New Guides

After nearly a year of identifying trails sites, ensuring local people along the way are totally engaged in the process, sitting with them and getting local stories, myths, legends and knowledge that they would like to share, mapping and trialling the trails, with ‘real’ tourists – we are there.

The main idea is to create additional, authentic, experiences that visitors can buy, before they travel or when there, to greatly enhance their experience, complementing the gorilla experience and putting them in close and ‘real’ touch with local people going about their daily lives and wanting to share that with visitors. Extending the stay means more local spending, more money staying and circulating in the local economy. Creating greater socio-economic and cultural resilience

Connecting those livelihood experiences with visitors greatly assists not only the visitor to have a ‘real’ deepening of their journey to the forest but also creates direct monetary benefits to the local population whilst, at the same time, heightening local awareness of the need to conserve the forest; creating local alternatives to traditional uses of the forest, with it’s rare and endangered species.

SO – a win-win-win all ‘round – people, places, biodiversity & conservation – and – exciting tourist experiences.


  • Stories of myths and legends;
  • Displays of herbal medicinal remedies;
  • Displays of coffee growing and processing;
  • Educational lifestyle experiences of the Batwa as traditional custodians of the forest for past millennia;
  • Ex-poachers as ‘new’ market gardeners;
  • Women’s groups growing fresh and ‘new’ produce for lodges and camps;
  • Ex-poachers turned apiculturists;
  • Birdlife aplenty;
  • Streams and rivers; and
  • All in the spectacular countryside surrounding the National Park guided by specially trained members of the Bwindi Specialists Guides Group.

Trail Maps and Guides

Bwindi lives and livelihoods guided trails

Reformed poachers

Rubuguri origins and honey

Traditional rural life and Batwa culture


May 2018 update

ELear xciting news from Change-a-life-Bwindi. Following on from the big order, from Agandi Lodge for laundry and waste paper baskets in the new design, Tina has received a request from the Maa Trust on the Masai Mara in Kenya to supply a range of the new baskets for their craft shop and to supply lodges with new and innovative products.  This is a major step forward, as the Trust, until now, did not have a basket range - focusing on amazing Kenyan beadwork.

The order was to supply a representative range of the new baskets with the idea of seeing what will sell and to generate new orders. In discussion with the CEO of the Trust, Dr Crystal Mogensen, the opportunity to host a small team of the ladies from Ruhija, to showcase the weaving process to lodge managers has been met with enthusiasm and this is being worked on.

In the meantime, the ladies' have, again, refused money for the work; last time the money was used to buy solar panels for their homes, preferring instead for Tina to buy school fees as well as to have chairs made, locally, for their houses.

Year 2 Progress Report April 2018 

August 2017  update
This from Naomi Jackson. Senior Operations Manager at Explore: "I just wanted to share this lovely comment from a customer regarding our Uganda trip.
Myself and a couple of others in the group chose to spend an afternoon learning to weave with the lovely women at the Ride 4 a Woman charity in Bwindi. I would highly recommend this. It was a very relaxing afternoon spent chatting to, and learning about the locals."

July Update

Latest News:
There is some confusion amongst source market operators.  A gorilla permit to trek gorillas in Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National Park costs USD600 per day per person in the high season and USD450per permit in the low season months of April, May and November. There has been no change. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) announced on 6 May an immediate increase in the price of a gorilla permit in Rwanda from US $750 to US $1,500.This should increase Bwindi's competitive advantage.

Uganda has confirmed that the current fees will remain in place for the next two years allowing Uganda to take full advantage of the doubled fees in neighbouring Rwanda, where the cost for a single permit, Rwandan citizens included, now stands at a whopping 1.500 US Dollars. This translates into a couple now paying 3.000 US Dollars for which money five people can have the same experience when doing this activity in ‘The Pearl of Africa‘. Sources close to UWA have confirmed a significant increase in advance sales for gorilla permits, which are now open up to mid-2019 already, giving rise to hope for the country’s tourism industry that visitor numbers will rise in the future as foreign tourists take advantage of Uganda’s price stability.more

Local economic development through ‘pro-poor’ gorilla tourism in Uganda

Training with the basket makers, bird guides, Batwa and village walks, poachers turned market gardeners and beekeepers/ honey producers has commenced. These producer groups all welcome visitors and we would appreciate feedback from tour leaders, travellers and tour operators over the next year while we work with local trainers to enhance their skills, the quality of the goods and services they offer and their earnings.  Training is continuing for the remainder of the year.

Travellers and holidaymakers can be assured of an enhanced experience and those inbound and source market operators which engage with these enhanced products will be providing a better experience and assisting local people to earn more from tourism. For details of each of the groups and the goods and experiences they offer please email Peter Nizette  peternizette@gmail.com

This initiative is supported by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative | More details of this IIED project here.

Coverage in  The East African Gateja revives the arts among Uganda’s Batwa

Some of the groups engaged in the initiative.

Ride 4 a woman

Habasa Evelyne and her husband Rubalema Denis formed Ride 4 A Woman in 2009. The program started by renting bicycles to tourists with the hope of generating money to start a job-training program for the women. As time went on, there became a need for bike maintenance so Evelyne and Denis started training local women to do the repairs. The program expanded beyond bicycle renting and mechanics when a group of Australian tourists met Evelyne and offered to help her start a sewing program. This led to the need of a community building for the programs to take place, which was completed in 2012 and is called the Bwindi Women’s Community Centre.

Today, Ride 4 A Woman strives to empower many local women by providing them with training in local crafts, textiles, bicycle repair and English instruction.

Sanaa Gateja is working with groups of basket weavers around the park to improve the design and quality of the baskets they produce in order to increase their earnings. The designs reflect the Bwindi landscapes/

Exporting baskets through Kwetu Africa. 

The Batwa Development Programme which offers a Batwa Experience which is about preserving their culture and passing it to their children - they also offer a good tourism experience. The Batwa village tours offer a community engagement of sufficient quality and depth that some operators and travellers will extend their length of stay to enable them to spend time there.

Product Development

We have identified 18  producer groups to work with to improve the quality of locally produced goods and services for sale to tourists and lodges around the park and for export.

The Initiative

The Responsible Tourism Partnership is contributing its inclusive tourism expertise to a Darwin Initiative funded initiative to improve the livelihoods of those living adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Southwest Uganda. The initiative is led by the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Local economic development through ‘pro-poor’ gorilla tourism in Uganda (Apr 2016 to Mar 2019) is a 3-year project funded by the UK government's Darwin Initiative. Through it, we will work with local people and established tour operators to develop and test new ‘pro-poor’ tourism products and services around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The new initiatives — such as guided tours, food experiences, cultural performances, and improved handicrafts — will aim to add value to the typical 2-night gorilla tracking package and increase local revenue from tourism, thereby contributing to poverty alleviation, improving local peoples’ attitudes to conservation and reducing threats to gorillas.

But those living very close to the forest suffer significant costs such as crop raiding by wild animals; the revenue from the park is not targeted at those who suffer most. Tourists pay US$600 per person to track gorillas. Communities living around the forest receive US$10 per gorilla permit sold, plus 20 per cent of the US$40 park entry fees in recognition of the importance of their support for conservation.

There are also few conservation or tourism-based jobs open to local people. Wider benefits from park tourism are also limited by low levels of skills development, resulting in low-quality handicrafts and poor presentation of community-based enterprises, which deter tourists.

The Responsible Tourism Partnership is leading the design of tourism services, scoping demand, assessing supply and matching supply and demand. Ugandan trainers are being used to build capacity to meet demand and we are working closely with Uganda inbound operators and source market operators in the UK, USA and Germany.

Project activities over the three years will include:

  • Consulting with tour operators and surveying tourists to clarify demand for local tourism products and services
  • Surveying households in tourist zones around the park to identify current benefits from tourism and attitudes towards and capacity to engage the project
  • Sharing results with tour operators, agreeing the most viable products and services and identifying quality criteria and sources of training
  • Working with existing guides, performers, handicraft makers and so on to deliver training
  • Adapting emerging 'Gorilla Friendly' enterprise standards and testing them on new products and services
  • Working with tour operators to include the new products and services in existing packages, collecting feedback, refining, and rolling-out, and
  • Sharing lessons learned more widely in Uganda and internationally.

The Responsible Tourism Partnership is leading the design of tourism services, scoping demand, assessing supply and matching supply and demand. Ugandan trainers are being used to build capacity to meet demand and we are working closely with Uganda inbound operators and source market operators in the UK, USA and Germany.


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