Conservation vs Community Development
The creation of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and community development challenges
At the time of creating Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in 1991, many people who inhabited the Mgahinga game reserve were forced to leave their land and resettled in other parts of central and western Uganda. The high cost of land in Kisoro district led many to migrate further away, and many others into poverty. Some families who managed to get land close to the park settled near the boundary and others went to some far places in the country. The indigenous Batwa community, who could be used to survive on hunting were left with no land or housing. The Batwa are part of the MCDO target group and are one of the marginalized communities in Uganda. The common challenges faced by the Batwa community include poor housing, lack of access to education and medical care.
By 1994, tourism started picking up and a number of tourists started visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park to track mountain gorillas. After realizing that tourism was not benefiting local communities who lost almost everything they owned, in 2003, MCDO was founded to use tourism as a resource to address the social challenges facing this community.
As of today, several community initiatives have been put in place: two community campsites, a sponsorship program for disadvantaged students, women handicrafts groups, a kindergarten, and a micro-credit savings scheme.