Category Archives: Introduction

Bwindi’s wild bananas

It’s one of those times of year at ITFC when everyone is busy analyzing and writing up their completed research and we chose this opportunity to talk to Frederick Ssasli about his interesting study conducted on the little known wild banana species (Ensete venticosum) in Bwindi.

The objective of his study  was to investigate the ecology of the wild banana by recording the animals that visited and utilised the plant’s fruit and flowers. Most fruiting plants in Bwindi are seasonal, however these wild bananas are special as they fruit and flower all year round, possibly providing a reliable ‘fall back’ food source for animals. Little is known about wild bananas and even less in Bwindi, so Frederick expected some exciting results.

A convenient site was chosen less than a kilometre from ITFC’s premises. Ten camera traps were set up, each on a different tree, five focusing on the flowers and the rest on the fruit. The study ran from 2011 to 2012 in the months of November to April and has just come to an end. 

Now for the results, what everyone had been waiting for! The most frequent visitors to the fruit included L’hoste monkeys, baboons, squirrels and mice which were viewed feeding on the ripe bananas, or in the L’Hoeste’s case, humorously squabbling over them (as they often do). The flowers’ visitors included some nectarivorous birds in the day and lots of bats (which are yet to be identified to the species level) and mice during the night. Even more interesting was the presence of the predatory two-tailed palm civet (Nandinia binotata) which was captured on several occasions visiting the flowers and in one case with a mouse in its mouth!

Two-spotted palm civet after catching a mouse

Two-spotted palm civet after catching a mouse

Bat on banana flower

Bat on banana flower

L’Hoest’s monkey on banana fruit

This study has set the stage for further research at Bwindi to find out more about these inter-specific relationships and to test the list of hypotheses stimulated by each camera picture. There are also some interesting implications for crop raiding. Could the conservation of wild bananas help in preventing increased crop-raiding incidents by providing an alternative food source in the low fruiting season? Could the wild banana be a new keystone species (a species which has a large effect its environment and that many species rely on)?

We hope to see some interesting papers in the near future!

On a side note this is our (Lucy and Andrew’s) last blog. We hope you enjoyed them!

squirrel on wild banana

squirrel on wild banana

The search for Bwindi’s River Otters

As we set off, through the tea plantations, past the abrupt transition to tropical forest (as is often the case around Bwindi), the heavens opened up on us with the force of a true tropical storm. We continued our wet, slippery journey down to the Ishasha river (along with numerous comical slips and disappearances down holes), in the hopes we might find what we were looking for… a picture of an otter!

Frederick looking at the impressive tree ferns

Frederick looking at the impressive tree ferns

Otters have previously been recorded in Bwindi between 1990s and 2000. A social study in 2000 by Andama Edward on the ‘Status and distribution of carnivores in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park’, identified that local people around Bwindi knew of two species of otter, the Clawless otter (Aonyx capensis) and the Spot necked otter (Lutra mavulicollis), however there has yet to be a camera trap photo to confirm this.

Frederick Ssali (ITFC’s research officer) is undertaking a study which aims to camera trap in areas not being done by ITFC’s TEAM project, investigate the ecology of Bwindi’s otters and other aquatic and semi aquatic animals, as well as open up the area to further research. The study, which started in 2001, also plans to use water quality as a factor that could influence the distribution and presence of the different species.

Setting up the camera traps

Setting up the camera traps

So far, the otter team have conducted six camera trapping sessions along the Ihihizo river at the ‘neck’ of Bwindi, but were unlucky and didn’t catch a glimpse of any otters. However, they still found an abundance of wildlife including the African Golden Cat, African Civet, Bush Tailed Porcupine and Yellow Backed Duiker. The team then changed their location to the larger Ishasha river (where we went) and have been camera trapping along its steep banks.

Camera trap picture of an African Golden Cat

Camera trap picture of an African Golden Cat

 

After 10 camera trapping sessions and still no sign of an otter (although an exiting glimpse of a long tailed pangolin), the team plans to move their study site somewhere closer to home (Ruhija).

Let hope that, in the future, we can report that the otters have finally been spotted!

The Ishasha river flowing through Bwindi

The Ishasha river flowing through Bwindi

Andrew & Lucy

Herbarium

ITFC is home to an on-site herbarium with it’s own resident botanical expert, Robert Barigyira. To learn about the herbarium we conducted a short interview with Robert, who has been working here since 1995! Robert’s love for plants developed when he was working for CARE as a Forest Technician, assisting with field collections as well as developing and maintaining indigenous tree nurseries and attending trainings with the herbarium staff at Makerere University.

Robert showing us a specimen of a wild banana, Ensete ventricosum

Robert showing us a specimen of a wild banana, Ensete ventricosum

Being the resident botanical expert, Robert’s role involves all maintenance of the herbarium and it’s specimens, obtaining more specimens to develop the herbarium, maintaining an ethnobtanical garden and providing all botanical services to ITFC as well as to visiting researchers. The herbarium, which houses over 3600 specimens from 160 different plant families, has specimens from various locations around Uganda. Although the vast majority are of plants found in Bwindi, they also have specimens collected from Mgahinga National Park, Echuya Forest Reserve, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Rwenzori National Park and Mt. Elgon National Park.

ITFC's organised herbarium

ITFC’s organised herbarium

Part of the ethno-botany garden

Part of the ethno-botany garden

The ethno-botanical garden at ITFC (see above) was developed in the early 1990’s, after the national park was gazetted. Acting as a demonstration garden to show communities that they can cultivate forest plants, it houses medicinal and edible species as well as those used for building and weaving.

While Robert’s interest extends to all plants, the Asteracea and Rubiacea families, which are the most common families in this region, are his favourite. Even with his vast botanical knowledge, he still says that ferns and grasses are the most difficult groups to identify.

He is a wealth of knowledge and is quick to assist with the identification of plants for resident and visiting researchers. For example, he often helps to identify species eaten by the gorillas and was happy to show us some unusual specimens (see picture below). Those who are in need of a plant specialist, ITFC has the man for you!

Epiphyte - Drynaria volkensii

Robert showing us the epiphyte – Drynaria volkensii

Lucy & Andrew

Lucy and Andrew’s first blog

Here it goes, our first blog of many at ITFC! Firstly we will introduce ourselves, Andrew Kirkby and Lucy Sangster, both recent graduates from the University of Sussex, majoring in Ecology and Conservation and Biology, respectively. Andrew (British/American), born in Kenya, but has been calling Uganda home since 1996, is here gaining some extra experience before attending an MSc course in Conservation Science at Imperial College London in October. Lucy, of British/Swiss origin and constantly travelling between the two, is interested in wildlife health and conservation, and is also planning to do an MSc later this year. Amongst other things, we will be picking up the ITFC blogs for the next four months and hope to keep you all updated on the recent work going on in and around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Although we have already been here a week and settled in, we will travel back to our journey here and our first impressions…

Lucy starting off the blog outside ITFC accomidation

Lucy starting off the blog outside ITFC accommodation

After meeting up with Badru and his family in the early morning, we left hectic, hazy Kampala for greener horizons, with a few stops along the way. Last time Andrew was in Bwindi was visiting Buhoma in 2003 and we expected a tiny, degraded, winding road from Kabale that would last for at least 5 hours. Although we reached Ruhija in darkness, it only took us about 2 hours and we were surprised by the ease of the journey, half of it through the beautiful forest. We were warned by Clemencia (administrator of ITFC) that ‘cold was serious business at Ruhija’ and to prepare for it, so were not shocked by the brisk fresh air. Expecting a cold bucket shower in cold air and to sleep in our sleeping bags, we were extremely happy to find a jerry can of heated water for showers and nice blankets prepared for us!

We were warmly welcomed the next day by all the staff and given a tour. The research station is situated in-amongst trees, just inside the boundary of the national park. The central offices are clustered together at the top of a hill with the residential buildings hidden around the hillside, with views of the forest. No field research station is without a few troupes of mischievous primates and we were soon visited by a group of L’Hoest’s monkeys raiding the compost bin. We were extremely happy to meet our camp keeper, Valentino, a very friendly guy, who would assist us with boiling water, cooking and washing, which makde us feel extremely privileged!

ITFC offices

Some of the ITFC offices

L'Hoest's Monkey after visiting us

L’Hoest’s monkey after visiting us

 

During the week we decided to explore the surrounding countryside. We started by peeking heads into the nice looking lodges, then proceeded to get lost, looking for a recommended hill-top view-point that we had forgotten the name of. Luckily we bumped into a few local residents and asked for directions to the ‘hill’. They pointed us in the right direction and decided to join us. Although we never made it to the intended destination, we enjoyed many hills, extraordinary views and 3 species of monkey along the forest boundary.

View from the top of Barora Hill

View from the top of Barora Hill

Overall, ITFC seems to be a friendly, fresh, peaceful place to live and work and we look forward to the adventures to come! Watch this space for tales of what research and activities are going on at ITFC!

Volunteership experience in Bwindi

Dear readers, today we have the joy of sharing with you the experience of one of our volunteers, Diane Mukundwa. She comes all the way from the National University of Rwanda and has been with ITFC from September 26th 2011 til early May 2012.

Hi, my name is Diane Mukundwa; I arrived in Uganda on Monday 26th September, 2011 via the Katuna border (with Rwanda). Mr. Robert Bitariho (senior researcher with ITFC) picked me from Kabale and we drove to Ruhija. My first surprise was to realize that from Kabale to Ruhija it was quite a distance compared to the way from Kigali/Rwanda to Kabale/Uganda. It was already dark and very cold when we reached the research station; I was very excited thinking about what was going to be my first adventure after university life!!!

 

My 2nd day in Ruhija, I took time for some poses

My 2nd day in Ruhija, I took time for some poses

Life in the dorm
My accommodation was in the dormitory. Upon arrival I was welcomed by other volunteers: Donah Ndinawe who had been there a week before me and Moses who had been at ITFC for almost a year. There were many other students and researchers who stayed for a short while in the dorm when I was there, all from different countries; it was amazing to experience all these different cultures. Life in the dorm was very comfortable and organized, and always full of wonders and surprises. Every Tuesday (a market day in Ruhija) we used to make a shopping list and everyone contributed equally.

Market day in Ruhija

Market day in Ruhija

The fire place was my number one favorite place in the dorm because in Bwindi the cold is serious business! From the dorm window I always enjoyed looking at the monkeys playing in the trees outside, but it was not so good when one monkey came into the dorm and took our bread and some sweet bananas!!! You should have seen a monkey trying to open a locked dust bin searching for banana peels!!

 

Oh yeaahh, life in the dorm is full of fun!!me, Donah and Xiana.

Oh yeaahh, life in the dorm is full of fun!!me, Donah and Xiana.

Library and office life.

I have had the opportunity to be involved in a number of projects (all based in Bwindi) like the Multiple Use program, phenology research work and sometimes I also helped with the camera trapping activities. ITFC has a small but very organized library; this has been my office from where I have been entering data from the studies above..

You already know something about the camera trapping project I guess – but certainly not the same way I have experienced!! From the thousands of pictures captured from the field, It was not an easy task for me to accord species names to each, especially that they all in black and white. I had to look very carefully at each one of them, to see which animal was on the picture and name the picture accordingly, that’s when I realized that those field guide books with pictures of different animals are not that just made for tourists!!! I have to admit the days I worked on the pictures were the toughest days I experienced during my tenure in the library – for even when I would finally retire to my bed at night, I would continue seeing the Duikers, Monkeys and Bush pigs moving in my head!!

Field work experience

My adrenalin was sky high when I was crossing Ihihizo and Mbwa River, in the centre of Bwindi, while setting cameras (intended to capture pictures of otters). When Fred, the activity’s lead research officer, asked me if I was a good swimmer it never crossed my mind what he wanted to imply until when I was stuck in the middle of relatively fast moving river waters without the ability of going back, terrified of moving forward. Fortunately there was a field assistant just in time to save me.,

Byaruhanga (a field assistant) crossing Ihihizo River

Byaruhanga (a field assistant) crossing Ihihizo River

 

 

Damazo and Aventino helping me to set a camera after surviving the river!!

Damazo and Aventino helping me to set a camera after surviving the river!!

I also participated in phenology work and was blessed to see a forest elephant once which was grazing in the transect. Phenology work involves counting leaves, flower buds and flowers up in the tree, suing binoculars. However this requires some good training and so of the time I resorted to recording data instead.

I also spent a number of nights camping while on the Multiple Use field work. The first night I was in a tent it took me a while to realize that I actually had reversed my sleeping bag; I had put the open part at the feet while I was struggling to breath because my head was in the closed part!!! I was also amused by the special gate improvised to prevent campers from bumping into each other in the toilet,

 

This is the gate, here it means that the toilet is free!

This is the gate, here it means that the toilet is free!


Toilet occupied, don't disturb!!!

Toilet occupied, don't disturb!!!

Every second that passed in the forest was an opportunity for me to learn something new. I enjoyed those ethno-botany stories about Bwindi plants. I also learned how to manipulate some of the tricky instruments used in the field but for sure the bark-gauge is only for strong people!! (I felt the muscles in my chest aching for the rest of the day).

Bwindi is full of wonders; Ruhija is a nice place to stay, though it is very cold. My volunteering period has been very nice and such a great experience, thanks to each and every one who contributed to making my experience unique.

 Diane

Recollections from a 16-months’ field experience with mountain gorillas

Hi Everyone!!! My name is Ed Wright and I am 29 years old and from the UK. I have just finished about 16 months of field work here at ITFC, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. I am a PhD student at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, which is a research institution based in Leipzig, Germany. I would dearly like to share with you some of my experiences, so sit back, relax and read on…

Doing an information sharing about my study at ITFC Sharing about my study at ITFC

I arrived in August 2010 after spending a short while in Germany preparing my project and making sure I knew what I was going to come here to do. Before I embarked on this project I was working with unhabituated (not used to human presence) gorillas and chimpanzees in Gabon. This time I was coming to study gorillas on the opposite side of tropical Africa in “the pearl of Africa”, Uganda. I was very excited to see how different it was and felt very lucky to once again be working with amazing animals in very beautiful parts of the world. Martha Robbins, my supervisor and project director told me that Uganda was really very different from Gabon. I remember her saying: “Do you like mountains and beans?” Luckily I like both and I came to realise that if you don’t, Bwindi is not the place for you! 🙂

The drive up from Kabale (which is about 10 hours from Kampala, the capital) reminds you that you are in an extremely populated part of the world. Every corner of land is used for agriculture even up to the park boundary. Yet once you go through the park gates you enter a magical world high up in the steep hills of this Impenetrable National Park, right in the South West of Uganda.

I was impressed straight away; the hills looked like the “real business”. I enjoy mountaineering and I saw immediately this was going to be good fun. Terrifically beautiful, with monkeys enjoying themselves in the trees and with duikers running around.

When I arrived at ITFC, which was going to be my home for the next 16 months, I was happy to see that it is a well established research station. Some field sites are pretty basic and very remote, ITFC was for sure a step up from what I was used to. I was warmly welcomed by the other researchers here at the institute and other members of staff. These people became my friends and with whom I shared many gorilla stories and also heard about their experiences in and out of the forest.

I was here to record detailed gorilla feeding behaviour and to see how the distribution and density of food affects their social relationships. To implement this, I worked with a gorilla group which is reserved for research, called Kyagurilo. The research group is habituated to our presence, which means that to them we are part of the scenery – just like another tree in the forest if you like. Obviously we do not interact with them as this would change their natural behaviour which is precisely what we are there to record. It is a lovely group of gorillas which at the moment is composed of a silverback called Rukina, 2 blackbacks, 8 females, two juveniles and 5 infants. During the last 16 months I have come to know these gorillas extremely well.

Almighty Rukina

Almighty Rukina!

I vividly remember my very first day with the gorillas as if it was just the other day! They were feeding in a small swamp eating thistle. It was a very special experience that first day, being surrounded by a group of gorillas, and it still is to this very day!

Happy?

Happy?

Recording detailed gorilla feeding behaviour is no easy job I can tell you. During my first few months collecting data I was finding it difficult to keep up with the gorilla I was observing. There is a lot of understory vegetation here at Bwindi, the gorilla would just disappear into it and I would struggle to keep up, especially as one needs to be really careful when walking amongst gorillas (the last thing you want to do is to bump into a large mammal weighing 200kg!). Also walking at angles of 65 degrees isn’t easy at all! But after a lot of patience and hard work things became easier with time. However, it is no use complaining, I work in a tropical high altitude rainforest after all, one has to expect lots of rain and lots of steep hills!

Data collection during the gorilla census in Bwindi

Data collection during the gorilla census in Bwindi

I have often been asked what is the most special gorilla behaviour I have experienced… this is a tricky question as I find practically all gorilla behaviour really interesting. But the following are a few. I was extremely lucky to witness a baby gorilla come into this world. Normally females will deliver when they are at their nests (when we are never with them), however this time it just popped out. I was touched to see such a rare and special event. Then, as soon as the infant was born, the mother started to chew on the umbilical cord and proceeded to eat the placenta (in nature nothing goes to waste!). I wouldn’t call that a ‘beautiful’ experience but it was definitely a very special one.

The Family with the newborn

The Family with the newborn

The other thing that happened which comes to my mind was when I was watching this female gorilla; it was a warm sunny morning and this gorilla was taking a nap. Just then this leaf fell out of the sky and landed on her stomach, which woke the gorilla up. She looked at the leaf and promptly eat it and went back to sleep! It made me smile for the rest of the day.

Farewell

Farewell

Sadly it is time for me to leave 🙁

Next I will analyze all the data I have collected and hopefully some of my findings will contribute to the protection of these wonderful creatures, so that future generations can enjoy them like I have done.

I will miss my furry forest friends!!

Thanks for tuning in,

Ed

Exciting experiences of our new communications officer

Dear readers,

Since a week, ITFC has a staff member dedicated to communication: Ivan Wassaaka. We are very happy that he has joined us and asked him to give you an impression of his new home and tasks. The floor is yours, Ivan!

Ivan Wassaaka - Communications Officer, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation

Ivan Wassaaka - Communications Officer, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation

For me, nature and writing are intertwined. I believe strongly in sustainably conserving our natural environment; it inspires me to reflect and write about it. As the Communications Officer I will be responsible for collecting news from ITFC’s areas of operation and writing it up for websites, blogs and other fora. Luckily, collecting the news is a hands-on job and I will be working with the other ITFC staff, volunteers and stakeholders in order to relay the information straight from the forest floor! And so each morning with my laptop, camera and diary I set off and help out where and when I can, seeking out the next inspiring tale.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a little about how I got here, first…

Previously I worked with Kalagala Eco-tourism Development Organization (KTDO) as a community relations officer. Yet having studied East Africa’s natural science history during my tourism degree at university, I kept feeling a sense of frustration that I was not able to do more in this field. I had another opportunity working with Edsa African Safaris as marketing and administration manager from where I acquired a lot of knowledge and skills in corporate communications during these years. So when the ITFC advertised the vacancy of a communication officer, it was just the position I had been packaged for.

Ruhija sits at over 2,300m ASL in the spectacular hills of eastern Bwindi and on clear days you have the wonderful view of the Virunga Volcanoes. That said, the first 2 nights were just too cold for a newcomer. Temperatures here sometimes fall below 6C. Thank God for the three blankets I was offered, but still they all seemed to offer no solution. I had to wear 2 shirts even in these blankets so that I could enjoy some warm sleep.

You can never get bored in Bwindi! Everyday I just get carried away by the diversity of plants here. Often I am amused by myself, especially by the times I take gazing at the plants here. A 10 meters’ distance can take me several minutes to walk. Please bear with me, I have been to forests but I think Bwindi is just so different.

Taking a deeper look at yet another unique plant in Bwindi

Taking a deeper look at yet another unique plant in Bwindi

Ooh I hear you wondering, how visiting about the gorillas? Well, I have not yet seen them, I already strongly feel their nearness all round over me. Just the other day, on a walk through the forest with my new colleagues, I was walking in fresh footsteps of a family!

For now it is just enough being surrounded by over 1000 different plant species, 350 bird species, and the other primate species in this ‘impenetrable afromontane forest’!

Searching for gorillas? Not yet - I (in the background), with other colleagues on a walk through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Searching for gorillas? Not yet - I (in the background), with other colleagues on a walk through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Who would not pay for escaping the early morning traffic jams in Kampala, dogs and cats making boring noise through the nights, dusty, potholed and be-garbaged city streets allover? Here instead I have monkeys patrolling the office and my house, wonderful bird songs to awake and set the sun and oh, plenty of fresh food!

Along with experiencing overwhelming first impressions; I have learned much useful and interesting information which will serve me well during my tenure here. I probably cannot say enough thanks to the staff more especially the directors who have been giving it all their best to ensure that I am well set-up, giving me lots of literature and talk.

I am already full of ideas and very much excited about being the communication channel for ITFC’s research, monitoring and conservation work in the GVL of the Albertine Rift.
I just can’t wait!

An interview with Miriam van Heist

This blog was written by Alex Pinsker, based on an interview with Miriam van Heist

“I have been working at ITFC, sharing the director’s job with Douglas Sheil, for two and a half years now. On a daily basis at the institute, I deal with staff and financial management, and answer requests for collaboration. I oversee the student projects and generally help with planning of activities and keeping an eye on everything – making sure that operations run smoothly and to plan.

When Douglas and I applied for the post, we both knew ITFC from when we worked in Uganda in the 1990s. I also felt it was an exciting challenge to work and live closer to where conservation takes place in reality, being based in rural East Africa.

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On one of our favourite Sunday walks

I really love living right on the edge of the forest, in such beautiful surroundings. I also enjoy the variety of activities during my work (though I could do with some more fieldwork!). Sustainability remains a challenge for an institute like ITFC, that mostly depends on donor funding; to ensure that the institute can keep playing its role in training conservation researchers and managers, it needs to find funds and people for the future. The remoteness of the institute adds to the challenge, as operation costs are higher, and it makes it harder to attract experienced researchers.

Our work is important in aiding conservation, because I believe that educating and training young researchers is the key to a future where conservation is taken seriously.”

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With Douglas, in field camp on the edge of the Bwindi swamp

An interview with Douglas Sheil

Dear readers,

remember we presented our staff Robert, Badru, Emmanuel and Peter in this blog some time ago? We had a few more interviews in the pipeline, but too much other stuff was happening so we delayed! We now introduce Douglas Sheil, the current director of the Institute (ITFC).

“I am a forest ecologist. I have worked with ITFC as the director for over two and a half years. The job is a real mixture of tasks. I often deal with correspondence regarding new research ideas and funds for the institute. I also have a lot of communication with people interested in doing research with ITFC. I sometimes get to work closely with students and researchers and get involved with solving the various challenges of their research – that can be fun.

Before working here at ITFC, I spent ten years in an international organisation in Indonesia. It was a great place to do research but I left as I felt that life had become a bit too comfortable. I needed a new challenge. I had been saying that I would welcome the chance to work for an African university for a while, or to work somewhere a bit wild; so naturally, when I saw the job of director advertised for ITFC in Bwindi, I applied! Miriam (van Heist) and I agreed to share the job between us (half time each). We already knew ITFC and Bwindi (a beautiful place!) so we were excited about this opportunity.

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“I love being surrounded by the Bwindi Impenetrable forest!”

One aspect of the work that I enjoy is the variety. Bwindi is such a remarkable place too, I still see new things nearly every day. It can be a lot of fun to work with enthusiastic students, staff and visiting researchers. Of course I also enjoy the research itself – though I generally spend more time in the office than I would wish!

There are various trip opportunities. For example, for one project we have visited many of the protected areas of Uganda, and discussed with the managers the challenges that they’re facing. The goal of much of our research is to assist with those problems.

Our main challenge at ITFC is funding – nothing is guaranteed in the long term. We always seem to need additional funds to fix something or address a new challenge. That part of the work is seldom fun – it can be frustrating – but it is important.

ITFC’s role in conservation is important. We must ensure people with the knowledge and skills to deal with the various challenges within the region not only now but in the future. Education is vital.”

This blog was written by Alex Pinsker, based on an interview with Douglas

Sharing the daily lives of people around Bwindi

We people around ITFC live in an area of steep hills with valleys. Many of us have to walk long distances to reach water sources, but some people have small plastic tanks to collect water from their roofs during the rainy seasons.

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Steep slopes below Ruhija where crops are grown

We grow tea and tobacco as cash crops on a small scale. Beans, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, millet, cabbages, yams and sorghum are grown as food crops and may also be sold locally to add on our income. We also rear goats, cows, sheep, pigs and we plant different tree species like eucalyptus, pine, black-wattle and cyprus for our home use and for extra income. In addition to these sources of income there are a few employment opportunities available from ITFC and UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority).

UWA recently opened one Mountain gorilla group for tracking from Ruhija, there are also nature walks to the bamboo zone, to Mubwindi swamp and opportunties to go for birding. Tour companies have started setting up tourist facilities (camp sites, hotels, lodges) and local people hope they may be able to sell food and handcrafts to tourists.

Every Tuesday there is a market in the canteen and people from all surrounding villages come to attend it. They sell and buy goods locally grown and other goods from the shops that have been set up. Often they walk for hours with their produce to come to the market Business is growing slowly and the shop keepers use public cars travelling to Kabale, the nearest town about 50 km from Ruhija. The road passes through the national park and sometimes, in the rain season when elephants are on the road, the transport during early mornings and evening hours is delayed.

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This is our public transport to Kabale, no air conditioned buses,no 4 wheel drive vehicles.

Hope to hear your attitudes and responses.

Christopher