ZIWA RHINO SANCTUARY regards the involvement of the surrounding communities as a vital part to the success of the rhino programme and has embarked on various upliftment, education and socio-economic programmes that involve the entire community to benefit directly from the success of the rhino conservation programme.
Hakuna Matata Primary School
Not only does RFU provide housing accommodation for their staff, but for their families as well. This has lead to a situation where children are looked after by child-minders at home, due to the far distances from formal schools in the district. Therefore RFU renovated an existing building and equipped it to be utilized as a nursery school. Following the Uganda Education Department’s curriculum guidelines, three qualified private teachers were employed by RFU to staff the school and teach the children.
The school was started in 2010 and is growing from strength to strength. Seventy-five (75) applicants were accepted. 30 RFU staff children and 45 community children. The results that reflect in the students reports proves that the school is a major success and is indeed a programme that RFU is extremely proud of.
Up to mid-2009 the neighbouring cattle farmers used to cut the perimeter fence on a regular basis, to allow their cattle to graze on the sanctuary. This was done due to poor grazing conditions on their own lands, especially during the dry seasons. This state of affair caused a serious security risk as well as unnecessary repair expenses.
Instead of taking the normal law enforcement route as a solution to the problem, the RFU Executive Director recognised an opportunity to embrace the needs of the community and by solving the source of the problem, created an excellent working and trust relationship with the sanctuary’s neighbours. An agreement was entered into between RFU and all the individual farmers, in conjunction with the local leaders and law enforcement agencies, whereby the farmers are allowed to graze their cattle on the sanctuary.
The agreement stipulated stringent regulations that to date have been honored by all the parties involved. The outcome of this agreement has led to the following:
- Damage to the perimeter fence has seized,
- The condition of the cattle, due to good grazing, has improved considerably. This has led to a dramatic increase in prices the cattle fetch on the bi-weekly local market,
- The risk of bush-fires has greatly been reduced,
- Due to cattle pest control measures applied by the farmers, pests on the sanctuary are mitigated at the same time,
- The grazing has been shortened on the majority of the sanctuary.
- Most importantly, excellent relations between RFU and its neighbours, who make up the “first line of defence” in terms of rhino and personnel security.
Students from various tertiary institutions are using Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary as a basis for field studies and practical studies:
- Makerere University
- Kasese Tourism and Hospitality Training Institute
- Private International students
These students are granted permission to undertake their study programmes on the sanctuary at a small fee to cover costs. The agreement stipulates that RFU has joint ownership of the results of studies that were done.
RFU recognised the need of various under-privileged orphan school students who are older than sixteen years of age and have fallen behind their formal school years due to the lack of funds. These students are given the opportunity to do unskilled and semi-skilled labour on the sanctuary during the school holidays, enabling them to work and pay for their studies.
Without fail, all the 14 students that have been embraced in this programme have excelled in their studies and one school-leaver has been granted a study bursary by a college in Kampala. The rest are still at school and have all achieved above-average results.
One crucial and basic human right is access to water and therefore RFU has made it its mission to supply all employees and their families with clean drinking water. Through efforts made by RFU, corporate and private involvement was obtained and three boreholes on the sanctuary have been renovated and restored and supplies three sections of communities on the sanctuary. However, four more boreholes are required to supply the whole community with water.
School and Church Support
After evaluating the requests and requirements, the following institutions in Nakitoma, which falls within the same sub-county as Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, were assisted:
- Nakitoma Secondary School was given funds to complete their laboratory building and roof,
- The local church in Nakitoma was assisted with funds to complete the building’s roof,
- The Lord Care Primary school was assisted in funds to complete their school building and roof.
As part of RFU’s international student volunteer programme, volunteer teachers on a regular basis assist both schools. These costs are covered by RFU.