Assessment of ecotourism as a vehicle for community development in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mukono Parish
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Ecotourism has played a great role in supporting the local communities leaving around the protected areas today, this is done basing on its principles, but it has not been clear noted on how effective ecotourism has been. The study is about how ecotourism has developed rural community members leaving adjacent protected areas particularly BINP in Mukono Parish. Face to face interviews supported by semi structured questionnaires were administered, to: 1) identify and describe ecotourism activities; 2) examine extent of community involvement in ecotourism; 3) assess benefits of ecotourism. The study revealed various ecotourism activities with gorilla tracking as the major activity in the area. However limited number of people were involved and this was attributed mostly to the distance from their residential areas. The survey revealed numerous benefits which were categorized as social and economic, however, social benefits outweighed the economic benefits and this would result into community members returning to their traditional way of leaving which included hunting and agriculture. Additionally, the study revealed that community members generally were unsatisfied by the percentage revenue shared, so this may lead to social inequality as well members being apathetic towards ecotourism. However, there are some strategies being put across by different stakeholders to ensure more benefits from ecotourism, for instance, increasing the security of the area so that more tourists visit the area, advertising activities in villages which are far from the park. Besides the above strategies, research has suggested that the park management should increase on the percentage revenue shared to local communities adjacent to the park so to prevent miss understanding to either parties. The study furthermore suggested that in order to prevent putting pressure on materials and resources for crafts since it was the most participated activity, more gorilla groups should be habituated and also more ecotourism activities should be developed for example activities like, horse riding in areas like Buhoma, canopy walks in the park, which will broaden returns as well as employment of more people. Additionally, community members who have incurred property damage and crop raiding by wild animals should also be compensated as long as they don’t encroach on the buffer zones and Park boundaries.