The Kibale National Park is a critically important ecosystem for the long-term survival of chimpanzees. Like other environments that harbour great apes, its priority biodiversity ecosystem and as the largest protected forest in Uganda (760 km2) is of enormous importance to the survival of chimpanzees at the eastern most limits of their range. It is an exceptional example of a mid-altitude rain forest with the highest primate diversity and density in East Africa. It is home to approx. 1400 threatened chimpanzees, the largest population in Uganda and the second largest of its sub-species in Africa, and over 300 bird species. It is the last remaining forest in East Africa that is the habitat both of great apes and a healthy population of elephants.
Founded in 1997, The Kasiisi Project was the vision of a coalition of Ugandan and expatriate researchers and educators. Its goal was to provide children living around the park with good education so that they have options other than eking out a living on progressively smaller and less fertile patches of land – a precarious way to live which often requires falling back on the resources of the park (poaching, illegal logging, clearing forest for farm land etc.) to make ends meet.
Their programs focus on education, providing all kinds of support for the 14 forest edge schools that they work with, reaching 10,000 children, their teachers and communities, along approximately 30% of the forest boundary. They fund secondary school and college scholarships for students and advanced training scholarships for teachers. The outcome of all their work over the past 16 years has been spectacular, 130 students have received post primary scholarships – 7 now attend University (one a freshman at Harvard). More than 70 teachers have participated in training workshops and 7 have returned to college to upgrade their qualifications. Currently, 90 children attend the first pre-school in the district that has teachers trained in early childhood education.
The Kasiisi Project also funds initiatives aimed at supporting the special needs of girls, literacy, math, science, sports, boy scouts and girl guides. Through strong links to major universities (e.g. MIT, Harvard, University of Wisconsin, University of New Hampshire, and West Point Military Academy) and school districts in Massachusetts and New York, they have access to faculty and students who volunteer their time and expertise to help develop their programs or who undertake research projects that help them design the way forward.
The development of a school farm is underway to fund the lunch program and provide both an outdoor classroom for the children and a place for agricultural interns from local colleges to learn about sustainable farming. Conservation education programs – field trips, wildlife camps, local-language conservation movies for children, art, drama, photography, debate etc. help the children understand the importance of conservation of Kibale National Park.
However, close to 100% of the funding needed has come from overseas and in order for their project to continue being developed, they need to be at least in some part self-sufficient. They have 2 main income generating projects that are currently in the early phases of their development, which are designed to address some of their project sustainability issues.
1. The Project Guesthouse: This is envisaged as generating the income stream that will support the administration of the Kasiisi Project in Uganda. Their challenge is to make sure that they have a steady stream of tourists and other visitors to fill their beds during the rest of the year.
2. The Project Farm: The farm is intended to generate the income they need for the school lunch program as well as be a source of information on sustainable farming for the community and students, and to be a good placement for local agricultural student interns.
3. Tourism in partnership with tour groups: We have a fledgling partnership with an Australian tour group, which combines wildlife tourism with community and conservation projects.
In addition they have 2 other income generating projects – the pre-school and the private boarding facilities that need help within Uganda, and if these 2 initiatives cannot support themselves they will not survive.
With this TIE placement, The Kasiisi Project expects the CP to develop a very comprehensive business and communications strategy to better understand their various targets, how they could package their projects into actual offerings, helping to improve the long-term sustainability of the organisation, and therefore help them continue providing the children with educational support and preserving the Kibale National Park.