This is not an April fool’s day joke! The day was on the 3rd April 2014, a day that will always remain memorable for the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC). ITFC was honoured to host a high powered delegation from the ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities. The delegation was led by none other than the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Hon. Dr. Maria Mutagamba and comprised of the Permanent secretary, Ambassador Patrick Mugoya, Commissioner Mrs Grace Aulo Mbabazi, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) board chairman, Mr. Benjamin Otto and the Executive Director of UWA Dr Andrew Seguya. Other high ranking officials from the ministry of tourism also attended including all members of the UWA board and staff. The delegation was on a tour of the Bwindi Mgahinga conservation Area (BMCA) and was later scheduled to launch the BMCA management plan (2013-2023) that ITFC played a crucial role in formulating. The management plan is scheduled to be launched on the 4th of April 2014.
The delegation was welcomed to ITFC by the director Dr Robert Bitariho and staff. The director then introduced ITFC staff to the delegation and gave the visitors a tour of ITFC offices and facilities. In his address to the delegation, the director gave a brief background of how ITFC started as a project in 1987 researching on Mt Gorillas, the Impenetrable Forest Conservation Project (IFCP). He mentioned that the IFCP project was led then by a researcher from the New York Zoological Society Dr Tom Butynsky. The project was later to be established as a research station of Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) as ITFC with the help of Professor Fredrick Kayanja. The director stressed that because of research on the Mt gorillas, ITFC influenced together with Prof. Kayanja the creation of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1991. He mentioned some of ITFC donors as Uganda Government (through MUST), WWF, WCS, USAID and other partners. The director mentioned that ITFC works very closely with UWA in answering park management questions. The director talked about the accomplishments of ITFC since it was started and the challenges it faces. The main challenge mentioned was sustainable funding of ITFC activities. He also talked about ongoing programmes and ITFC’s plans for the future.
The delegation was impressed with the work ITFC carries out and was very enthusiastic with questions and suggestions for sustainable funding of research. To bluntly put it, the minister jokingly said that when she retires, she will have to come to ITFC for research since the facilities available were conducive for research and writing. She cracked the joke in good humour, and asked the director to let her come back for research in future. The Minister playfully stated that this would be on condition that she would be exempted from paying park entry fees. The director jokingly responded to her banter by asking her to be friendly with the Executive Director UWA if she wants free entry to the park. Dr Seguya shyly brushed off the joke.
Dr Andrew Seguya (UWA, ED) put the “icing on the cake” he commended ITFC’s work in research and training that facilitates UWA in managing Bwndi and Mgahinga National parks. He stressed that ITFC has been and continues to be an important partner with UWA more especially in Ecological and socio-economical research and monitoring. Dr Seguya was enthusiastic for more and expansive work between UWA and ITFC in the future.
The minister thanked ITFC staff for their commitment to conservation in the Albertine region and Uganda at large. She also thanked MUST and other funding partners to ITFC for their support. The overall feeling of the delegation about ITFC was overwhelming, with praises of ITFC work and all of them promised to come back for a longer visit. In the words of our beloved ITFC accountant, Mr Desi: “This visit strengthens ITFC’s partnership with government in conservation and sustainable development”.
The full list of delegatation is included here:
Hon Dr Maria Mutagamba Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities
Ambassador Patrick Mugoya Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Tourism
Mr Benjamin Otto Chairman board of Directors UWA
Dr Cladys Kalema Zikusoka UWA board Member
Mr Mani Khan UWA board Member
Captain John Emily Otekat UWA board member
Mrs Crace Aulo Mbabazi UWA board member
Mr Boniface Byamukama UWA board member
Dr Andrew Seguya Executive Director UWA
Mr John Makombo Director Conservation UWA
Mr Charles Tumwesigye Deputy Director Conservation UWA
Mr Chemonges Director Legal UWA
Mr Edgar Buhunga Director Planning and EIA UWA
Mr Pontius Ezuma Conservation Area Manger BMCA
Mr Christopher Masaba Senior Warden in Charge of Mgahinga
Emmanuel Akampurila and Robert Bitariho