The introduction of 'compassionate contribution' in the draft Wildlife Act has raised hope that the government could consider compensating communities neighbouring conservation areas.
People living near wildlife areas have long complained about getting so little from wildlife activities. But according to the draft act, the government will be obliged to make a 'compassionate contribution' for any destruction to people's land, injuries and death to people, by animals that stray out of protected areas.
Whereas the government would determine how much and whom to pay, observes see this as a concession from the state. Wild animals usually roam outside the park boundaries, trampling and eating crops, and even killing local residents. The government's suggestion will be welcomed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. UWA complains that it is underfunded, yet it gives 20% of the entrance fees in protected areas to host local governments.
However, some reports note many loopholes in the exercise, which could be forcing the government to rethink its strategy in dealing with the wildlife-human conflict around conservation areas.
"Many people were concerned that the funds were being mismanaged, a perception fuelled by a lack of visibility of the funds, poorly-managed projects and a sense that sub-county leadership lacked empathy for local people," reads the 2010 study Revenue sharing around Kibale National Park done by Catrina A. MacKenzie.
"It was primarily in villages where unfinished projects were located where resentment towards the sub-county's handling of funds was present. Sixteen of the 55 revenue sharing projects were unfinished, abandoned, or not yet operational in 2009," the study revealed.
Incomplete projects, according to the study, resulted from inadequate funds; but there were three projects where managerial incompetence, and possibly corruption, was suspected. Some locals say that losses incurred by living next to the park far outweigh the benefit of the revenue sharing programme. Damage to crops near Kibale national park, for example, is estimated to be between $5-$50 per raid. This far exceeds the revenue-sharing disbursements - approximately $1 per household per year.
In Bwindi national park, it was observed that local leaders spent the revenue on people within their own villages as a way of rewarding their electorate, according to a study by David Mwesigye Tumusiime and Paul Vedeld, with funding from Makerere University, Nordic African Institute and Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund. According to the study, by 2010, UWA had disbursed $750,000 nationally to the local government councils around Uganda's national parks.
The effectiveness of the revenue-sharing scheme is dependent on local governments' capability to execute the programme with the necessary transparency - something that many local governments have failed. As a result, communities have been pushing government to follow in the footsteps of Rwanda and adopt the compensation scheme, which compels government to pay for losses that people incur as a result of conservation.
But according to Akankwasah Barirega, the Principal Wildlife Officer, in the ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, the government can't fall in the compensation trap.
"We will not call it compensation because you cannot compensate for death or injury. Tanzania has tried it and it has been successful and we think it will be successful [here too]," he said.
Kenya and Tanzania also work on the revenue-sharing scheme; however, their percentage shared with the community is less than 15%. According to Akankwasah, revenue-sharing under the draft act is to be changed into 'a conditional grant', which will empower the ministry and UWA to have a say in the projects the local government invest the revenue in.