Ugandan rangers set up a safari business promoting community conservation

Photo of Ronald Bwambale
By Ronald Bwambale, Founderin Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Ronald Bwambale and his colleagues, all rangers or ex-rangers from Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, write about the importance of conservation to themselves and their communities.

4 members of the Range Land Safaris team

Wildlife rangers and conservation

Growing up near the national parks, we’re inspired by the conservationists that we used to meet while on study trips during our school days, who used to take us around the parks answering many of our questions, and above all being leaders of our study tours.

During our time at school, we also used to work as porters for tourists going to the Rwenzori Mountains. While on this task we got a chance to exchange a lot of ideas with tourists from all over the world. From this we got school fees since most of our families could sometimes not afford to pay for our education. Not only did we get school fees, but also money to support our families economically.

After attaining different levels of education and inspired by the people we had met, we decided to join the ranger force and be like the ones that we had seen before.

As rangers we under went so many kinds of training. These included: community conservation, law enforcement, tour guiding and conflict resolution and management. While on the job we discussed with many local community groups about the dangers of poaching, the benefit of wildlife conservation to them and the world at large, and the best way to benefit from tourists. We also met a lot of tourist groups with whom we discussed issues regarding conservation and tourism.

With all this work and experience as rangers, we have moved on to establish a company that will expand on this work and that will directly benefit the local community and appreciate the work of conservation, and also benefit us as rangers for the job well done. This is Range Land Safaris Uganda that we are proud of since we are doing what we are best at.

While working as rangers, we recognized that local communities are the key stakeholders in ensuring the protection of wildlife both inside and outside Uganda’s protected areas. We realized it when areas around the Queen Elizabeth National Park were being invaded by herds of elephants which could destroy plantations. But the local community uses traditional conservation approaches to ensure the animals leave alive. As Range Land Safaris we set it as an objective to work with the local organised communities in reorganizing their efforts towards the conservation and allowing them to benefit directly from the tourists coming to the protected area by including them on our itineraries for clients.

Conservation training and awareness

Range Land Safaris sought partnership with Nature’s Frontline and Queen Elizabeth Parks Twinning Project, organisations that emphasize conservation and awareness of the local communities. The programmes in both organisations aim to raise awareness of the value of conservation and how communities can both participate in and benefit from it. This is facilitated by visiting and twinning the schools around the protected area, as well as other organized groups.

Range Land Safaris includes trips focusing on community tourism such as tours, workshops, performances, dining, home-stays and accommodation, all of which are provided by the local community. This reflects well the meaning of conserving culture and geo-tourism sites around them. The benefit is creating jobs in the communities to people with a variety of skills, including drivers, cooks, guides, dancers and service staff.

As Range Land Safaris and ranger guides, we have highly benefited from conservation. It has given us employment opportunities: tourism can provide an important source of income which discourages people from carrying out non-sustainable activities such as poaching, fishing, logging or gathering firewood from protected forests. Receiving tourists also provides an incentive for communities to value their natural environment and preserve it for future visitors and residents. Our clients while visiting community tourism projects aimed at conserving, get a unique and authentic experience revealing a true side of Ugandan life, as they eat traditional food, meet the villagers, play with the kids and are guided by experts who have lived here their whole lives.

Our targets are connecting communities and wildlife.

Ronald Bwambale, Joel Kule, Solomon Kyabulima, Morris Masereka, Morris Musungu and Francis Mwanguhya are the owners of Range Land Safaris Uganda.