The pearl of Africa

Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa, full of mountains, rivers, lakes and forests, all drenched in abundant rainfall.

In his book, My African Journey, Winston Churchill famously described the forests of Uganda as far more luxuriant than any tropical forest he had visited before. “Birds are as bright as butterflies; butterflies are as big as birds. The air hums with flying creatures; the earth crawls beneath your foot,” he proclaims.

Though they were penned in 1908, Churchill’s words are borne out by modern scientific literature. Uganda ranks among the top ten most biodiverse countries in the world, with 18,783 plant and animal species recorded to date. Roughly half of the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas are found in south-western Uganda in the Albertine Rift – an area that is also noted for its astonishing number of endemic species.

The country does, however, face many threats. Natural habitats – particularly forests and wetlands – are being lost at an alarming rate, while poaching is also taking its toll on vulnerable species. The discovery of oil and gas within the Albertine Graben biodiversity hotspot and the impacts of climate change also have the potential to wreak havoc on Uganda’s vitally important natural environment.

Uganda facts
Country in Africa

Size (land & water):

241,038 km²

Population (2016 est.):

38,319,241

GDP per capita (2016 est.):

US$2,100

Uganda is located in Africa. It is bordered by Kenya, South Sudan, the DRC, Rwanda and Tanzania.

39%

of Africa’s mammal species are found in Uganda.

10%

of the country is forested today, down from 50% cover in 1900.

Our work to protect Uganda’s biodiversity

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working in Uganda virtually since our foundation well over a century ago. One of our most notable conservation interventions in more recent times has been through the groundbreaking collaboration known today as the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, which is conserving mountain gorillas across their three range states: Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the wake of a 2012 FFI report on sacred sites in Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains, we also piloted an innovative approach to protected area management that demonstrated how cultural values could be integrated in order to improve outcomes both for conservation and the well-being of communities. This work focused on Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Lake Mburo National Park, later expanding to Semliki National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and led to a greater appreciation of local communities’ cultural connections to and knowledge of nature, as well as improved relations with park authorities.

What’s more, a project to enable community-based restoration of ecological corridors between chimpanzee forests blocks in Uganda’s Albertine Rift resulted in a five-year Forest Corridor Action Plan and saw communities tracking chimpanzee movements through the project’s mobile phone network as part of biodiversity baseline data capturing, as well as carrying out reforestation and protecting forest patches on individual land.

Today, in addition to this continuing restoration work and building on our successes with mountain gorillas through IGCP, our work is focused on the western fringes of Lake Victoria where we are working with communities to ensure that they can become actively involved in the sustainable management of the area’s natural resources, upon which they depend.

The aim is to create community-conserved areas that will link up with national legislation to formally protect areas that are important for communities while also safeguarding the biodiversity found there. This work has the potential to set a precedent that will strengthen conservation and community livelihoods across Uganda and the wider region.

‘Conservation is the bedrock of Uganda’s development. Conservation in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, will succeed because of strategies that both conserve biodiversity and contribute to human development. In FFI, we respond to local needs, ensure local ownership, respect national priorities, develop strategic partnerships and strengthen our partners’ capacity to deliver lasting solutions. This is the foundation of our Innovative Conservation since 1903, absolutely relevant for and evident in Uganda.'

Stephen AsumaProgramme Manager, Uganda