CTPH has three integrated strategic programs to reduce threats to the critically endangered mountain gorillas, other wildlife and their habitats: wildlife conservation, community health and alternative livelihoods. We achieve these programs through delivering services that improve wildlife, livestock and community health and conservation education through peer-to-peer education and community-based behavior change communication. We also conduct research and advocacy to achieve our goals.
Wildlife conservation includes wildlife health monitoring using a One Health—integrated human, animal and ecosystem health—approach to establish an early warning system for cross species disease outbreaks; improving community attitudes to conservation including reducing illegal use of the forest, and their conservation practices including promotion of clean energy starting with energy saving cook stoves; soil and water conservation and sustainable agriculture.
CTPH established a Gorilla Research Clinic in 2005 at Buhoma – Bwindi’s main tourist site, which in 2015, was upgraded to a larger Gorilla Health and Community Conservation Centre with support from Tusk Trust. Samples from gorillas, livestock and people are analyzed to test for zoonotic diseases that have the potential to be shared across species. This initiative reduces threats to biodiversity conservation, by providing an early warning system for disease outbreaks between people, wildlife and livestock, helping to ensure timely responses and evidence driven interventions. This includes strengthening diagnosis for disease investigations in wildlife, livestock and people; and education targeted towards behavior change in national park communities to promote biodiversity conservation.
CTPH trains community volunteers as Human-Gorilla Conflict Resolution teams (HUGOs for short). HUGOs are responsible for safely chasing gorillas back into Bwindi Impenetrable National Park when they encroach on community land, often when foraging for banana plants. HUGOs are also trained to collect gorilla fecal samples left on community land as part of CTPH’s and the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s (UWA) monitoring of gorilla health at a time when they are most at risk from human diseases.
CTPH has implemented a successful Community Health model in Bwindi since 2007 with funding from USAID and other donors. Community health is implemented through Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) – local community volunteers who deliver integrated community based public health services to promote good health-seeking behavior, hygiene practices, infectious disease prevention and control, family planning, nutrition; and conservation education to individual households.
CTPH successfully scaled up the Village Health and Conservation Team (VHCT) and Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA) model from Kanungu to another district, Kisoro around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. This was supported with funding from Global Development Network after winning 1st prize of the 2012 Japanese Most Innovative Development Project Award for scaling a social service delivery model.
CTPH also scaled up this integrated approach to Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, in Nakapiritpirit District, Karamoja region of Eastern Uganda, also with endangered species including cheetahs, roan antelope and eland, through training Conservation Community Animal Health Workers to promote conservation, animal and human health using a “One Health” approach in partnership with UWA and Nakapiritpirit District local government. Funding from the French Embassy Social Development Fund made this possible.
We have continued to scale up the VHCT and VSLA approach to communities adjacent to Mt Elgon National Park in Uganda and the Virunga National Park in Mt. Tshibirimu and Mikeno sectors of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with support from the Global Development Network. In the Mt Elgon region, we are working in Bukwo, Bulambuli and Kween districts in Eastern Uganda. This project involves training the VHTs to promote conservation as well as community livelihoods using lessons learned from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
We have secured funding from Darwin Initiative for a three-year joint project with Oxford University, International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), UWA and Jane Goodall Institute to evaluate how health investments made by CTPH at Bwindi, have contributed to conservation and sustainable development outcomes. Lessons from this study will be shared as another way to measure the value added of integrated Population, Health and Environment (PHE) and One Health approaches, and be used to effectively scale the Bwindi VHCT model to Budongo Forest Reserve and Mt Elgon National Park.
Engaging the Youth
We set up the Bwindi Impenetrable Kids League with support from The Hodgkinson Family in England, UK, to motivate children to learn about conservation and health through sports and used the international language of football. CTPH and The Kids League (TKL) organize football and netball tournaments at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with the goal of improving youth community engagement in conservation. CTPH develops conservation education curriculum, provides lessons to the participants, and oversees the tournaments, while TKL trains coaches and provides training materials and soccer balls
CTPH programs provide alternative livelihoods for the Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs), which include supporting them with group income-generating projects and Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLAs) that bring them together and strengthen the integrated approach. As volunteers work without a salary this is a critical component to creating a sustainable program because the money they get from the income generating projects enables them to pay school fees for their children and meet other basic needs for the home.
CTPH opened a Telecentre in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 2005 and Queen Elizabeth National Park in 2007 to provide training to local communities in basic computer programs and provide Internet to remote areas. The Bwindi Telecentre brought Internet to the communities of Bwindi, and opened up their world enabling them to be to communicate with people around the world including the tourists who come to Bwindi. This initiative won a World Summit Award for Digital inclusion in Bwindi communities. We closed down the CTPH Telecentre at Bwindi because of the developments in the area, where people can now access Internet on their phones. At Queen Elizabeth National Park the Telecentre now serves as an UWA Visitor Information/CTPH Telecentre and is located at the Queen’s Pavilion Crater Drive Gate where tourists and local communities alike can access the Internet and send home photos of unique wildlife that they have seen.
CTPH through its social enterprise – Gorilla Conservation Coffee supports coffee farmers through training and providing access to national and international markets. The social enterprise was created with support from Worldwide Fund for Nature Switzerland. Gorilla Conservation Coffee promotes biodiversity conservation by enabling coffee farmers living around protected areas with gorillas to have a viable livelihood through access to markets, which in turn reduces threats to gorillas and their habitats. Furthermore, a donation is given to support Conservation Through Public Health’s NGO community health, gorilla health and conservation education programs for very roasted and packaged bag of coffee sold, enabling sustainable financing for conservation.