A new Community Development Partnership
Partnerships are integral in Rural development. They enable elevating each other through equitable sharing of natural, cultural, and social resources, the three that tourism rotates around.
Rainforest and Community Tours (RFCT) has started yet another partnership. This is the third formal tourism partnership that has been put on the ground to help promote tourism and development in rural communities by sharing opportunities with the local communities and other local stakeholders. Besides the three, there are other informal partnerships that we have, with different community-based tourism enterprises around Uganda.
In this new partnership, RFCT has chosen to invest in a community center after seeing the potential of this initiative to change the local lives, promoting local tourism inclusiveness and enriching the Rwenzori destination. The center is expected to open by Christmas on 24th December 2021. The center is being developed at the Rwenzori gateway at the Nyakalenginjo gate of Rwenzori Mountains National Park. This area is popular for tourism in Kasese district, the Rwenzori region in western Uganda. It is the oldest and most popular gate to this park, which is also a world heritage site and Ramser site. Besides, Rwenzori is the Highest Mountain in Uganda and the highest block mountain in Africa, with snow at the equator.
This is the fourth partnership of this kind. Ruboni community tourism project is the oldest RFCT partnership. The general collection of four partnerships is called the “buffer conservation initiative” where we work with communities living next to three National Parks in the Rwenzori region, to enhance their livelihoods and conservation of their natural and cultural resources. Other community development partnerships include; 1). Kikorongo community near Queen Elizabeth National park and 2). Kahondo community near Kibale National park. The activities in this collection of partnerships include conservation, tourism, rural development, women empowerment, child support initiative, and skilling the youth.
Over the years, tourism development needs have changed. To date, Ruboni community needs a hand in developing her tourism in a different way; by empowering the locals and helping them to be more involved in tourism. The community also needs to be helped to develop more tourism activities that will engage visitors that come to the area. In a way, this intervention will increase the value and create the markets for the local goods, increase destination competitiveness and prepare more products that guests can participate in during their stay. As a result, we want guests to stay longer and spend more money in the village when they come to Ruboni community. However, we want the local people, environment, and culture to continually be respected by the tourist and empressed by the locals during the tourism activities. The resulting income, partnerships, and skills will be used to support other local initiatives such as Production, education, healthcare, employment, and other needs that will arise.
The community center is an open space where both locals and tourists will equally converge to learn and be introduced to the local way of life in the most friendly, hygienic, and safe way. It is from here that tourists will meet the locals; an act that may result in other communal or individual partnerships. Guests with more time will start from here to explore the village opportunities through tours and excursions. The center will also run other programs to facilitate linkages with the community initiatives. These will include the information point, enterprise development support, a volunteer program, and a marketplace for the local goods and services.
Who is involved in this new partnership?
This partnership has been created between Rain Forest and Community Tours, a local family, and the local community members. This initiative was introduced by RCCDP and RFCT picked interest because it supports our goal of empowering communities through enterprise development. Further to the enterprise development concept, we believe that the creation of networking space is a key for knowledge exchange. By the end, these two goals are married in this one initiative.
RCCDP as a key partner is interested in promoting conservation as a tool for tourism and social development. Like most tourism and businesses, Ruboni community has been affected by the impacts of covid19, a situation that has hampered progress. This partnership is aimed to help both RCCDP and the village become more resilient enough to recover from the impact of covid19 if they can use tourism and other local innovations such as enterprise development, promoting local produce, building local markets for local goods, providing skills, especially to the women, youth and young people
The partnership has been contributed to by the family offering the land, the community offering the labor/ participation/ products, and RFCT offering the finances, expertise, and other resources that are not available to the community. Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA) is a great partner in this. She has provided the technical support to see the center is established. We hope the tour operators will support by bringing guests to experience this effort and the community tourism experiences that will be promoted in the community center.
Gaps and what you can do to help:
The key gaps that still exist in this partnership are;
- Low investment capital to make the center up todate
- Lack of finances to hire the professions staff to run the center
- Lack of technological and service equipment such as internet to make the center more habitable to the tourists and locals
- Finances and expartiese for marketing the center to the tour operatora and indipendednt travelers.
Rain Forest and Community Tours will continue to invest as we look for opportunities and partnerships that will help cover these gaps. Any support is highly welcome to help in these areas.