World Wide Fund (WWF) Uganda Country Office is promoting the Rwenzori Mountains National Park for sustainable tourism development.
The Rwenzori Mountains, also known as the mountains of the moon, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with snowcapped peaks at the equator endowed with rich and unique flora and fauna as well as outstanding scenic beauty.
The park boasts 994 recorded plant species as well as wildlife including the Rwenzori duiker, Chimpanzee and the African elephant.
Despite that the flora and fauna in the park are a sight to behold, the park is still underappreciated and performs way below its potential in terms of tourism compared to other neighbouring national parks.
Besides that, the park resources are also under pressure due to limited livelihood options and high population growth, which increases demand for the resources such as water, firewood and food.
As a result, the WWF Uganda Country Office with funding from the European Union and the French Facility for Global Environment is implementing the “sustainable financing of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park”project to preserve the biodiversity of the park and improve community livelihoods.
The project, works closely with Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Wildlife Authority, District Local Governments and other concerned stakeholders aimed to increase tourist numbers through introducing more diverse range of products, and to ensure the profits trickle down to local communities.
To this effect, the project has supported the development of three new sustainable tourism products by working with three community based tourism groups.
The products are the Rwenzori coffee cup, the Chimpanzee experience and Handcrafts.
The garden to the coffee cup experience is offered by the Busongora Joint Farmers Association, a coffee growing and marketing association in Kasese District on the foothills of Rwenzori Mountains.
The product offers tourists a chance to experience the “coffee journey” and those that have taken part have been awed.
A Belgian national, Eveline, remarked: “It was an awesome experience; grinding your own coffee on a traditional grinding stone, making the coffee and finally sipping it.”
Kinyampanika Chimpanzee Conservation and Development Association was initiated by the Abantaghi clan members in Kabarole District whose totem is the chimpanzee and are mandated culturally to ensure its welfare.
The group has dedicated itself to chimpanzee conservation, and to enhance the efforts, WWF is supporting them to develop a chimpanzee tourist trail which is also ideal for bird watching and sightseeing.
This is done alongside their Rwenzori cultural tourism experience, which mainly focuses on the Bakonzo culture.
On the way to the Kilembe circuit of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Kyanjuki Handcraft Women Association, have a booth displaying beautiful assorted crafts made out of both local and recycled materials, which include baskets, shopping bags, and jewellery.
The group was trained in quality craft making, the use of natural dyes, and have created links for them to market their products.