Exploring the intersection of conservation travel, climate, and women’s empowerment in Uganda, through the lens of the video production company, Heliconia.
The people living and working in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are inspiring for the way they showcase an opportunity to experience the effects and stresses of climate change alongside the solutions already in play to help.
Increased temperatures as a result of climate change along with unpredictable weather and water stress are presenting a new challenge to the region as farming becomes harder and people turn to poaching as an alternative form of livelihood. According to a recent community survey, the majority of households in the region have experienced drought and have recently suffered food insecurity.
The Buhoma section of the Bwindi National Park is where gorilla trekking in Bwindi first started, in 1993. The Park is known among conservationists for its unique biodiversity that includes approximately half the world’s population of mountain gorillas. In the 1980s the mountain gorilla population had dwindled to an estimated 250 individuals, but thanks to intensive efforts in conservation, research, and surveillance that number is now much higher - 459. In 2018, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature removed mountain gorillas from its “critically endangered” list.
COVID brought job losses and the loss of tourism income, however, further stressing the balance between habitat and wildlife conservation and local livelihoods, resulting in mountain gorilla poaching.
As the communities surrounding the park cope with change, organizations like Buhoma’s Ride 4 A Woman, which offers training and microfinance to budding businesswomen looking to create and build on their own entrepreneurial ideas, are helping build climate resilience among residents. Because women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change, they need to be equipped with skills for a new kind of future.
The UN Chronicle observes, “Women are increasingly being seen as more vulnerable than men to the impacts of climate change, mainly because they represent the majority of the world's poor and are proportionally more dependent on threatened natural resources. The difference between men and women can also be seen in their differential roles, responsibilities, decision making, access to land and natural resources, opportunities and needs, which are held by both sexes. Worldwide, women have less access than men to resources such as land, credit, agricultural inputs, decision-making structures, technology, training and extension services that would enhance their capacity to adapt to climate change."
Education through Ride 4 A Woman brings empowerment; however, reducing inequalities and thereby supporting climate resilience, is especially important in remote communities like Buhoma. The organization also provides microfinance funding to women entrepreneurs like the organization’s Edith Tukahirwa, who received a loan of one million Ugandan shillings to support the growth of her now thriving food market stall in Buhoma. Edith remarked, “ R4W drives independent thinking and helps us take responsibility for our own lives without having to gain permission or involvement from our husbands as would traditionally have been the case.” Profits from Edith’s business successfully cover her daughter’s school fees and have enabled her to work on renovations to her house as well as clothes for her daughter and herself.
Learn more about Bwindi and the people living and working there in Heliconia’s video, here.