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New Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Batwa communities evicted and marginalized by the creation of the BINP. Limits of conservation policies towards 'community participation' approach.


The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, situated in the Kigezi region in southwest Uganda, represents one of the oldest most complex and biologically rich system on earth. Designated as a natural park in 1991 and a UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995, the park represents one of the most important bio-spot reserves in Africa. The designation of the area under national park came mostly under pressure from a donor agency, resulting in the introduction of stringent policing and the exclusion of the people from the park [8,10,11]. Use or extraction of any forest resources by community members was henceforth illegal and subject to high fines or imprisonment [12]. The loss of access to resources and land has let to intense conflicts between the authorities and the rural communities since its inception. The park has been instituted mostly as a project to protect the population of the endangered mountain gorilla whose population estimates to be about 700. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:New Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Specific commodities:Live Animals
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) has been established in 1991, for a total area of 330.8 km2. It is spread over three districts, Kabale, Kanunga and Kisore. This forest area was first gazetted as a Forest Reserve in 1932 and as an Animal Sanctuary in 1964 under the name of the Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve. Until 1991, BINP was managed as both a forest reserve and a game sanctuary, under the joint management of the forest and game departments. It was later listed as World heritage site under UNESCO in 1995. The BINP is also one of the most densely populated area of Uganda, (Narmada). The dominant land use activity surrounding the park is smallholder agriculture. Some 90% of the approximately 170,000 inhabitants belonging to the Bakiga, Bafumbira, Batwa, and Barwandan peoples earn a living on the region’s rich volcanic soils, with the majority classified as living in extreme poverty (Laudati, 2010). However, the most affected people evicted for the creation of the National Park were the Batwa.

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Project area:3,330
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:170,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/1992
Relevant government actors:Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)
International and Finance Institutionsinternational Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN)
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from Switzerland
International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP)
Africa Wildlife Federation (AWF)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU)
Forest People Programme
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:There have been several attempts by the Uganda government and Wildlife Conservationist to include the local communities into the management of the national park. However, these measures do not seem of solving the issues, leaving thousands of people in a state of social, political and economic marginalization.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[click to view]

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[14] Lewis, J. (2000), The Batwa Pygmies of the Great Lakes Region, a Report of Minority Rights Group
[click to view]

[10] Madden Fracis (2006) Gorillas in the garden—Human-wildlife conflict at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in IUCN Report, Policy Matters: Policy, Wealth and Conservation
[click to view]

[8] Conservation, Livelihoods, and Tourism: A Case Study of the Buhoma-Mukono Community- Based Tourism Project in Uganda
[click to view]

[9] Laudati (2010) Ecotourism: The Modern Predator? Implications of Gorilla Tourism on Local Livelihoods in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, in
[click to view]

[10] Madden Fracis () Gorillas in the garden—Human-wildlife conflict at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in IUCN Report, Policy Matters: Policy, Wealth and Conservation
[click to view]

[12] Laudati Ann (2010) The Encroaching Forest: Struggles Over Land and Resources on the Boundary of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, in Society and Natural Resources 23(8):776-789
[click to view]

[2] Mongabay "For Ugandan villagers, tradition and tourism help keep the peace with gorillas", Author: Deusdedit Ruhangariyo, Dec. 5, 2018
[click to view]

[3] New Vision, "Human-gorilla conflict management efforts pay off", Author: Fredrick Mugira, May 22, 2017
[click to view]

[click to view]

[5] New Visio, "Batwa culture for sale", Author: Titus Kakembo, April 28, 2019
[click to view]

[6] The Spectator, "Uganda is saving its gorillas – but there’s a human cost", Author: Toby Young, April 28, 2019
[click to view]

[7] Mongabay, "Study gauges use of tea as buffer crop to curb mountain gorilla raids", Author: Sean Mowbray, Feb 16, 2016
[click to view]

[15] BBC, "The dark side of Uganda's gorilla tourism industry", Aug. 30, 2016
[click to view]

[16] Equal Times, "Batwa: the most marginalised people in Uganda?", Author: Ewelina Kawczynskam, June 6, 2014
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Survival Campaign against Conservation
[click to view]

Batwa the forgotten tribe
[click to view]

United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, ICTA (UAB), [email protected]
Last update26/11/2019
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