The Kasiisi Project schools border Kibale National Park which is the forest home of rare and endangered species including monkeys, elephants, and chimpanzees. The area’s human population is also growing at an alarming rate and putting enormous pressure on the park, as land becomes scarce and local families use the forest for resources such as firewood and bushmeat. Subsistence farmers living around Kibale also experience hardship because forest animals can raid and destroy their crops. If humans and wildife in this region are to coexist into the future, a commitment by local people to conservation is needed as are innovative solutions to help alleviate the intense scramble for dwindling resources.
The Kasiisi Project’s Conservation Education Program encompasses a variety of initiatives aimed at instilling a commitment to environmental stewardship in Uganda’s next generation and encouraging more sustainable ways of living. We work with students and teachers in our 14 primary schools, mainly through established Wildlife Clubs, to improve knowledge about the environment, increase awareness of conservation issues, and encourage participation in fun, hands-on activities that ‘act locally’ to make a difference. Because of our affiliation with the Kibale Chimpanzee Project, our activities often have a chimpanzee focus. We work with teachers and local experts to ensure our program focus is timely and relevant to current conservation concerns. We also continuously evaluate our efforts to assess their efficacy and inform future directions. Our conservation education activities have included:
To foster a greater appreciation of local wildlife in our schools, we sponsor, in collaboration with the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, field trips to Kibale and other nearby protected areas for selected teachers. Teachers learn how to identify animals and about general wildlife biology and conservation during a swamp walk, chimpanzee trek, and/or a savannah safari. After these experiences, teachers were more knowledgeable about local wildlife, more likely to approve of policies that protect the environment, and more motivated to teach about environmental issues. Their students also performed better on evaluations testing wildlife knowledge, indicating that these experiences positively impacted their teaching. We have also collaborated with Camp Uganda to send our students on field trips to the Uganda Wildlife Education Center in Entebbe and, with WWF (Albertine Rift), to run a conservation camp.
Water and waste management projects:
In collaboration with researchers from McGill University, students learn how to monitor and test the quality of their local water sources. Students analyze their data and share their results along with recommendations for how to better manage water resources with their school and communities. To keep their schools clean, students also set up garbage bins around school grounds and run a composting system.
We are training students to raise and plant rare, indigenous tree species and now have a tree seedling nursery on our school farm, which students tend. Seedlings from this project will be donated to students’ families and the community at large for use in reforesting areas outside of the park.
Sustainable living projects:
We are now working with Westpoint Military Academy, MIT, and Brookwood School in Massachusetts to educate students and their communities about environmentally friendly technologies such as fuel efficient cooking stoves, eco-bricks for building, and biogas for energy production. We also are teaching about sustainable agriculture and using our school farm for community demonstration plots. Click here for more information about our renewable energy projects.
Guest speakers and debates:
We sponsor public conservation talks by local experts such as representatives from the Tooro Botanical Gardens, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Kibale Chimpanzee Project, and Kibale Snare Removal Program. We also sponsor an annual student debate tournament that focuses on local conservation issues.
We show conservation-themed films (e.g. water management, deforestation) to students and adult audiences in order to increase awareness about these issues. We are also working with Nature For Kids and other local collaborators to produce professional-quality films for African children that focus on conservation of the African great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos).
We encourage students to get creative when spreading conservation messages. Students write and publicly perform conservation-themed music, dances, and poetry. They also put on conservation skits using handmade paper mache masks depicting local animals.
The Kasiisi Project is a founding member of the Kibale Forest Coalition for Conservation Education (KFCCE), a collaborative involving 16 organizations all working to conserve the national park.