Kasese. In a bid to end rampart poaching, which reduced wild life in many conservation and game parks, Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA) has resorted to rewarding ex-poachers with domestic animals as an alternative for economic empowerment.
More than 60 people, who denounced poaching from Mt Rwenzori National Park in 2017 and formed two groups; Kinyangeya and Mapata Anti –poachers associations, were on Wednesday rewarded with 10 piglets.
Mr James Okware, the senior warden at Rwenzori Mountains National Park, said the 10 piglets will be shared by the two groups using the revolving system.
Mr Okware said UWA has done all it can to protect wild life but poaching remains a big challenge.
“We at UWA have done a lot of community awareness about wildlife conservation, used different interventions but wildlife in the country has continued to dwindle the reason why we have now opted to rewarding the ex-poachers as an alternative means of survival,” he said.
He added that the programme is aimed at spreading the message to all poachers that government has an alternative for them.
“We have given out 10 piglets to two groups as a way of gauging whether they can manage the project and once they look after them well, UWA shall add them more,” Mr Okware said.
He revealed that so far three guns have been recovered and the number of poachers being arrested has increased due to community involvement and awareness.
“It is difficult now to tell whether poaching has reduced at this point but what I want to say is that poaching cases have increased due to vigilance since many incidents would go unnoticed but we shall be able to measure the success may be after five years and see the progress,” he said.
UWA says the programme will be rolled out to other parts of the country once it registers success.
The Kasese Resident District Commissioner, Lt Joe Walusimbi, cautioned the ex-poachers to surrender all the guns saying once they are caught they will be penalised.
“I want you to bring all our guns for you to be safe but if you don’t and we get you, we shall not forgive you because you are an ex-poacher,” Lt Walusimbi warned.
Mr Emanuel Kule, the secretary for Nyangonge –Mapata ex-hunters, said: “Ever since we denounced poaching few years ago, our children have suffered from malnutrition due to poor feeding, no money and herbal medicines among other benefits we have been getting from the park.”
He added: “As we hand over our weapons to UWA today, we need you to give us alternatives otherwise it may not be easy for us to stay without meat.”
Mr Kule said they need to get clearance in order to get access to resources in the park as one way of improving working relationship between the communities and the park.
Last week another group denounced poaching and handed over their weapons to UWA authorities at Ndugutu Secondary School, Bugoye Sub-county in Kasese.
Ms Joy Biira, 45, said they decided to abandon illegal activities in the park after the four men who were leading them into the park lost their lives.
Ms Peresi Kabugho said apart from getting the piglets the group is also engaged in bee keeping for economic empowerment.