Strengthening Conservation in Uganda Through Youth Sports
July 11th, commemorates World Population Day, a day to focus on the urgency and importance of population issues. This year’s theme in Uganda is “Strengthening Youth Competitiveness for Sustainable Development.”
Population dynamics, human health and welfare and environmental sustainability are interlinked. The growing population is influencing demand for critical natural resources and services alongside the considerable environmental pressures resulting from unsustainable consumption patterns. The integrated Population, Health and Environment (PHE) approach offers a solution for sustainable development. PHE programs therefore play an important role in areas where demographic trends such as high population growth and migration place pressure on the environment; degraded natural resources impact the health and livelihoods of local communities; and where a lack of effective health services, including reproductive health, threaten long-term prospects for sustainable development.
Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) is a grassroots Ugandan-based NGO founded in 2003, to promote biodiversity conservation by enabling people, wildlife and livestock to coexist through improving their health and livelihoods in and around protected areas in Africa. CTPH has three integrated programs: community health, wildlife health and conservation and alternative livelihoods. CTPH employs the PHE approach to minimize threats to mountain gorillas, other wildlife and their habitats, by consolidating community based health care to promote family planning, and prevent and control diseases like tuberculosis, scabies, HIV/AIDS and dysentery. This is done through the expansion of existing Village Health Teams into Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) trained by CTPH to educate and encourage their community to be more hygienic and have better health practices and conservation attitudes. In order to sustain the volunteers’ efforts, the organization introduces income generating livestock livelihood projects for the community groups to derive an income to sustain their volunteer efforts and facilitates the formation of Village Savings and Loan Associations.
More than 100,000 people live in the remote areas where the endangered mountain gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Their need for land to cultivate has reduced the forest in which the gorillas live to virtual islands in the middle of expanding human settlements. While the core CTPH programs train adults working as VHCTs, we realized that to create impact it is important to train the next generation. This idea grew into the Bwindi Impenetrable Kids League, a partnership with The Kids League (TKL), that teaches children about conservation and healthy behavior while encouraging healthy competition through football and netball matches.
A total of 200 pupils were selected from five schools in Mukono parish— Buhoma Community Primary School, Kanyashande Primary School, Mukono Primary School, Bwindi Watoto School and Victory School. Forty students from each school participated along with three teachers. CTPH developed a conservation education curriculum and provided lessons to the participants, while TKL trained coaches, provided training materials, soccer balls and oversaw the tournaments. Students are evaluated through quizzes, and sportsmanship. Winning the game is dependent on winning the quiz and the game of football (soccer) or netball.
The tournament was organized in an internationally accepted manner, where the teams compete in two rounds before declaring a winner. Teams were named after Bwindi primates: Baboon, Galago, Gorilla and Red Tailed Monkey.
Conservation education classes are an essential part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Kids League and began with support from CTPH International Volunteer from the United States, Jessica Harding, who designed the curriculum, and CTPH Bwindi Field Office Manager, David Matsiko, an educator by profession. In addition to winning football and netball matches, the teams were expected to demonstrate conservation values and practices through quizzes before being declared tournament winners.
This year CTPH, with support from the Disney Conservation Fund, is creating a new Bwindi Impenetrable Kids League in Mpungu subcounty. Mpungu community is among the poorest around Bwindi with no established community based health care, and contributed to a tourist habituated black back gorilla, Mizano, being killed by a poacher from that community when it got into a fight with his hunting dog. CTPH aims to bring similar benefits to connect youth with nature through expanding the Impenetrable Kids League by adding four additional schools within Buremba parish to build upon the model started in four schools in Mukono parish.
CTPH believes in this year’s mission theme: “Strengthen Youth Competitiveness for Sustainable Development” and puts the theme into action through the Bwindi Impenetrable Kids League. Uganda’s national parks and her natural resources must be conserved for future generations and it begins with education Uganda’s youth on the importance of sustainable development and good conservation practices. The youth will be the future stewards of the environment and we hope to inspire a passion for conservation, especially in the kids living near Uganda’s national parks, at a young age.
CTPH is honored to be a part of the World Population Day activities and in supporting the next generation of Ugandans to be competitive through sustainable development. Our youth are our future and our legacy and it is all our responsibility to engage our youth in their development.