CONSERVATION THROUGH EDUCATION
These programs were created to bring awareness to school children and communities about the many different species that make up the wildlife in the Kasese region.
Sowing the Seeds of Conservation: Connecting Children to Nature through Field Trips to Queen Elizabeth National Park
The wellbeing of the people, wildlife, and environment of Uganda all depend on a culture that values biodiversity and embraces conservation. Yet every year, thousands of endangered animals are poached illegally for meat, income, or retaliation for crop destruction because bonding with nature is not a fundamental aspect of childhood in Uganda. Due to extreme poverty and the resulting human-wildlife conflicts, the first and often only information children receive about wildlife is negative or utilitarian. The KWCAO Field Trip Project replaces these negative perceptions with positive experiences and knowledge by connecting students with the stunningly diverse wildlife living in the nearby national park. Each trip brings 64 children and 8 teachers to Queen Elizabeth National Park for a day of experiential learning where they engage in presentations about biodiversity and conservation, visit a wildlife museum, go on a game drive, and perhaps most memorably, take a boat safari ride on the Kazinga Channel. An astounding variety of animals can be seen from the boat, including elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and the most diverse bird population in the world.
Before returning home, students receive tree seedlings to sow as a symbol of conservation and to combat deforestation. The act of seeing the animals first-hand creates student ambassadors who feel a genuine connection to nature, and a responsibility to sustain and care for it. Furthermore, the impact of the experience extends far beyond the scope of the trip as the students excitedly share their newfound enthusiasm with classmates, friends and family members.
Environmental Preservation: A Multi-pronged Approach to Engaging the Community in Wildlife Conservation
Our community outreach program has a greater impact by focusing on areas with higher poaching rates, especially communities bordering Queen Elizabeth National Park. During our program, we provide interactive wildlife conservation videos
that are uniquely adapted to each community’s needs and concerns. Following the program, KWCAO volunteers disburse wildlife conservation education pamphlets and tree seedlings to every individual. In addition, up to 10 families are chosen to have fuel-efficient stoves constructed at their homes. In return, every family agrees to help several other families in the area construct their own fuel-efficient stoves, making the conservation impact far-reaching.
Creating Conservation Impact in School-Aged Children: Introducing Wildlife Conservation Practices through Interactive Video Presentations, Tree Planting, and Wildlife Clubs.
Every year, KWCAO visits more than 135 schools in the district, providing interactive wildlife conservation presentations including videos, demonstrations, and discussions. Since many schools do not have electricity, KWCAO brings its own generator, laptop, movie screen, and other equipment.
During the presentations, KWCAO volunteers help the students learn about wildlife, it’s importance and the benefits of conservation. They field questions and dispel common myths that wildlife is harmful or only there as a source of monetary income. Some presentations are indoors and some are outdoors and the students are so excited to participate. Wildlife conservation is not included in the typical school curriculum so for most, this is their first time learning to identify the animals, hearing about how they live and care for families of their own. For some, this is their very first positive connection to nature. Using props such as masks and animal models brings an added sense of enthusiasm from the students.
Wildlife Resource Center and Conservationist Training
When people are provided with relevant information about how they can help create a positive change within their community they are more likely to act on it. But due to the absence of both local libraries and a formal education on the subject, the people in the district do not have access to the necessary information to learn about wildlife. To meet this critical need, we created the KWCAO Wildlife Conservation Resource Center.
The KWCAO Wildlife Conservation Resource Center is open to the public, free of charge, and run exclusively by volunteers. It serves as a central repository of information and is free to the public. We have
all kinds of materials for all ages, including books, posters, animal models, a laptop for viewing videos and writing reports, and several electronic tablets with pre-loaded ebooks and videos available to anyone who wants to view them. This is an exciting resource for a community where many people lack the basic comforts of indoor plumbing and electricity and is often a child’s first exposure to wildlife and conservation practices. Conservation education pamphlets and wildlife trading cards are also available for visitors to take home and share with their family and friends.
Alternative Livelihoods for Community Members
KWCAO is meeting the community’s growing need for conservation education by reaching out to the adult members of the community, many of whom are actively involved in poaching, and providing conservation education presentations and resources to help individuals support their families so they don’t have to resort to poaching. The presentations incorporate educational activities, videos, and interactive dialog that deepen their personal connection with wildlife and empower them to see themselves as part of the ecosystems that surround them.
We do this in many ways, including:
- Buying tree seedlings from nursery growers for our programs
- Hiring local craftsman to build fuel-efficient stoves
- Hiring local cooks to provide lunch during KWCAO’s field trips to the national park
- Providing materials for beekeeping projects
- Providing materials for waste receptacle bins to keep Kasese District unwanted debris from harming local wildlife
Tree Planting and Habitat Preservation
Tree planting is a large part of habitat restoration and conservation and KWCAO plants approximately 3,000 to 4,000 trees in the district every year. We give them to students during school presentations and during field trips to the national park, but we don’t stop there. We also give seedlings to community members so they can have trees for shade and branches for firewood which reduces the impact of illegal logging in the nearby national park.
Fuel-Efficient Cooking Stoves
To create a greater conservation impact, we expanded our efforts to protect the environment through the promotion of sustainable activities. In particular, we are focusing on forest conservation to include fuel-efficient cooking stoves which require less than half the amount of wood needed for a traditional open flame fire, reducing the consumption of illegally-sourced firewood from national forests. The recipients of our stoves also enjoy other benefits that include a reduced exposure to dangerous smoke inhalation which causes lung cancer and other breathing difficulties.
Although relatively new, this method of conservation proves to be particularly effective, as community members throughout the Kasese District have been requesting these alternative cooking stoves.
Who We Support
KWCAO currently supports:
- Per diem stipends paid to KWCAO-trained volunteer educators who travel to Kasese District schools to deliver programs to students
- Design and production of educational resource materials (e.g. wildlife trading cards, puppets, books, videos) used by KWCAO educators and classroom teachers
- Functional expenses related to educational program delivery (e.g. electrical generator, educator transportation, audio-visual equipment)
Children of Kasese
Many of the schoolchildren have never had the opportunity to learn about the incredible variety of wildlife living within their very own country. Traditionally, animals are viewed merely as a source of meat or income or as crop destroyers. KWCAO intends to teach kids the importance of protecting the wildlife and its habitat. Asaba developed a set of trading cards with information about each animal to use as a visual aid. Each child was given a card with the hopes that the kids would get excited about trading and, in turn, learn about each animal. Five years after giving a presentation, Asaba returned to the school and asked if any of the children still had a card. Anyone who still had one would receive ten more. Every child in the room held up a card. The impression left by a presentation lasting only a few hours has stuck with these children for years.
Based on positive student, teacher and community response to KWCAO visits to Kasese District schools, there is a growing District-wide demand for additional information and resources to support wildlife conservation efforts on a local level. The KWCAO conservation educators have visited more than 500 schools out of the more than 900 in the District.