UGANDA (eTN) – As much as a billion Uganda Shillings (approximately US$415,800) has accumulated in accounts set aside to give communities neighboring the Murchisons Falls National Park their 20 percent share from gate receipts, according to information becoming available to the Uganda public today. This unusually high bank balance, meant to be directed towards approved community projects aimed to bring benefits from wildlife-based tourism to the park neighbors, has been blamed on various reasons and an official of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) cited delayed project approvals and the recent election campaign.
Another regular source, however, quietly pointed to the upheavals at the Uganda Wildlife Authority in recent months, which according to the source “unsettled staff and disturbed our activities calendar besides the uncertainty over senior staff being in a position to call meetings and take decisions while under the spotlight of the media and our political oversight ministry.”
However, other parks did receive revenue share contributions in recent months, as incidentally reported here, but keeping a billion Shillings in a bank account instead of releasing much or all of it to the intended beneficiaries is only fueling suggestions that not all is well within UWA and likely to cause misunderstandings with the communities and their leaders over the delays.
What is to be commended though, and an ongoing source of pride, is the legal provision in the Wildlife Act that 20 percent of gate receipts must be set aside to benefit the neighboring villages of protected areas, something in fact now copied by many other wildlife management bodies across the African continent after Uganda paved the way for it over a decade ago.