International Crane Foundation


Scaling up to the Lake Victoria Basin: Program Goals

Africa: > Scaling up to the Lake Victoria Basin: Program Goals

Scaling up to the Lake Victoria Basin: Program Goals
Exciting programs like the Kipsaina Crane and Wetlands Conservation Group and the revitalized Wildlife Clubs of Ugand offer great hope for the future of cranes and wetlands in the Lake Victoria basin (See_Map). They have made remarkable progress despite having little to no income or other resources. They offer proof that a dedicated group of volunteers with strong leadership can be a powerful force for conservation in the most impoverished of areas. But these groups are thus far only able to cover a tiny fraction of the Lake Victoria basin and are unable to reach the majority of farming families even within their narrowly focused program areas. Our challenge is how to scale-up from these efforts and reach a wider circle of schools, churches, and other community institutions, how to reach a regional population with a very local message.

ICF is working with the Kipsaina Crane and Wetlands Conservation Group and the Wildlife Clubs of Kabale and Bushenyi to grow into model programs for community-based conservation in the Lake Victoria basin. We do not seek to produce a one-size-fits-all "conservation model" to export throughout the basin. Rather, these programs are serving as sources of experience, knowledge, and inspiration to encourage other individuals and community groups in the Lake Victoria basin to take up similar causes. Maurice Wanjala is serving as project leader for the Kipsaina Crane and Wetlands Conservation Group, under the local supervision of Prof. Bob Wishitemi of Moi University. Jimmy Muheebwa-Muhoozi is serving as project leader for the Uganda Wildlife Clubs, under the local supervision of Prof. Derek Pomeroy of Makerere University Institute of Environment and Natural Resources. Dr. Richard Beilfuss of the International Crane Foundation will supervise and coordinate overall project activities.

Our long-term goal is to enable the Kipsaina Crane and Wetlands Conservation Group and the Wildlife Clubs of southwestern Uganda to become model programs and influence community-based conservation of cranes and wetlands throughout the Lake Victoria basin. We are engaging people in conservation activities through direct hands-on experience and active discussion. Activities include:

  • Conducting workshops, seminars, debates, dramas, and choir performances throughout the catchment to increase conservation awareness in different sectors of the community, including schools, churches, and women’s groups;
  • Establishing "adopt a crane" programs with primary school children throughout the catchment to raise awareness and hands-on understanding of crane and wetland conservation issues;
  • Producing site-specific educational materials drawing from traditional knowledge and experiences of local people, using the Grey Crowned Crane as a flagship species for conservation;
  • Building on their tangible wetland conservation and restoration successes and expand to communities upstream and downstream.
  • Expanding and improving pilot projects for demonstrating the wise-use of wetlands, including indigenous tree nursery, bee-keeping, fish farming, utilization of harvested wetland plants for livestock feed, and organic farming of vegetables away from wetlands;
  • Conducting extension education with farming families to discuss alternative agricultural practices for fish farming, livestock grazing, agro-forestry, vegetable farming, and bee-keeping;
  • Developing income-generating activities to support the future activities of the groups, including the marketing of crafts made from wetland resources and products from the demonstration plots;
  • Collecting data on the breeding success of Grey Crowned Cranes and the intensity of agricultural activities in wetlands as a means for evaluating project effectiveness; and
  • Convening two meetings of group members from Uganda and Kenya to exchange ideas about their educational programs and critically evaluate their methods and strategies.

Through these actions, we hope to demonstrate the power of indigenous, grassroots leadership in affecting the land use changes that are necessary to save wetlands and their rich biodiversity. The Lake Victoria basin in Kenya and Uganda has one of the highest population densities in the world, and suffers from drastically diminished forest resources, water pollution, soil erosion, and wetland loss. As the need to increase food production escalates, local farmers – with few alternatives and against their better judgment – feel increasingly compelled to cultivate marginal areas on valley slopes and drain the remaining swamps on valley bottoms. In this context, neither preservationism nor classic rural development offer real conservation solutions. The future of Grey Crowned Cranes and their wetland homes depends on the capacity of rural communities to take innovative steps to protect their own environment and manage their natural resources in a sustainable manner. Government programs and policies can help raise awareness and reduce damage to the environment, but ultimately they cannot force farmers to risk their livelihoods by trying new approaches to farming and resource use. Such changes must be homegrown, based on practicable local examples and fostered by strong, trustworthy local leadership.

The Kipsaina Crane and Wetlands Conservation Group under the leadership of Maurice Wanjala, and the Wildlife Clubs of southwestern Uganda under the guidance of Jimmy Muheebwa-Muhoozi, are providing a new framework for thinking about rural conservation. They understand that community-based conservation programs are most effective when alternative land use programs offer sustainable incomes as well as ecologically-sound practices, when there is genuine power sharing with local people in terms of land use decision-making, when conservation programs deliver the benefits they promise, and when the values of nature are shared by local people. They understand that conservation must be linked to community aspirations. By doing so, they are creating a model for the integration of sustainable land use practices with biodiversity conservation that has great significance for the entire Lake Victoria basin and beyond.