05 Jun
  • By Amy Roll
  • Cause in

We are With Nature this World Environment Day

Help us celebrate World Environment Day this 5 June 2017 by sharing  the hashtags #WithNature and #WorldEnvironmentDay2017. Be sure to share your photos and if you have been to the places where CTPH works—Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth, Mt. Elgon , Virunga National Parks or Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve—be sure to tag CTPH on Facebook (Conservation Through Public Health), Twitter (@CTPHUganda) and Instagram (@ctph_uganda) in your post.

World Environment Day is the United Nations’ flagship day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Every June 5th we celebrate by joining other’s around the world to do something positive for the environment. Together, our collective actions create real and lasting impact for the planet. This year’s theme is connecting people with nature—a theme that resonates deeply with Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH).

Bwindi is a World Heritage Site and where CTPH first began community conservation programs

“I’m with nature” represents that people are the drivers of environmental conservation. Uganda, like many countries around the world, created national parks to protect the rich biodiversity and promote natural areas for tourists and local communities alike. Many people associate national parks as remote areas, but in Uganda communities live right on the edge of the national parks. The close proximity of communities to the parks poses challenges to conservation as communities rely on the natural resources in the park from taking wood for fuel to poaching wild animals. There is even the risk of disease transmission between people, wildlife and livestock as well as contamination of water sources.

CTPH, UWA and HUGO volunteers collecting gorilla fecal samples.

How can we promote environmental stewardship in these communities when there are so many challenges? CTPH has engaged community volunteers since 2007 in integrated conservation, health and livelihood programs in communities living around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) are a CTPH expansion of the Village Health Teams. They provide primary health care services, including family planning, for community members while teaching people the value of conservation and sustainable livelihoods. The Human and Gorilla Conflict Resolution Teams (HUGO for short) are trained by CTPH and the Uganda Wildlife Authority to safely chase gorillas when they come on community land (usually in search of a tasty banana plant) back into the forest and thus reduce conflict that could result in injury or death to the gorillas. The HUGOs have also been trained to collect gorilla fecal samples, which are then tested by CTPH in the field laboratory at our Gorilla Health and Community Conservation Centre for parasites and diseases. The Community Animal Health Workers (CAHWs) are trained by CTPH to provide basic veterinary care for livestock. In communities around Queen Elizabeth National Park CAHWs are assisting CTPH in drawing blood from cattle to test for diseases such as brucellosis and Rift Valley Fever.

CTPH staff training CAHWs to draw blood from cattle to test for zoonotic diseases.

Our community volunteers are key partners to protecting and conserving the wild places in Uganda. HUGO and VHCT member Francis Tukwasibwe from Mushorero Village, Bujengwe Parish truly embodies the “I’m with nature” theme. When asked why he chose to volunteer both as a VHCT and HUGO he responded that he has “learned a lot from CTPH on the importance of family planning” and through this education has realized that it is his responsibility to “take care of the environment.” This includes conserving the mountain gorillas and their habitat because they are as much part of his community’s livelihood as their livestock.

Francis is both a HUGO and VHCT and truly embodies the “I’m with nature” spirit.

CTPH invites students and tourists to visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and stay at our Gorilla Conservation Camp where they can be immersed in our integrated programs and meet some of our volunteers like Francis.

Gorilla Conservation Camp located in Buhoma Village near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

We would like to thank this year’s host, Canada, for their leadership on this very important day to be with nature.