A few years back, tourism was not embraced, especially in the rural areas of Uganda. Yet these were the very attractive places with beautiful features. Perhaps this was because several Ugandans had not positively perceived tourism and the benefits it comes with. Maybe that was before Uganda embraced sustainable tourism, a form of tourism that ensures that both the tour operators and the hosting communities benefit from tourism.
Back then, several tourists faced resilience and rejection from the local communities. However with the sustainable tourism goals, a number of facilities have been constructed in the hosting communities, several Ugandans are employed in the tourism industry, something that has highly motivated the local community members.
Being one of the popular tourism destinations in Africa, hosting communities around national parks have highly been developed, and truthfully, these are fruits of tourism. Before listing all the developments, let’s start with Bwindi Community Hospital.
Bwindi Community Hospital is a church of Uganda initiative under the Diocese of Kinkizi. Founded in 2003 by Scott and Carol Kellermann, as a small clinic under a tree reaching out to the Batwa pygmies who were displaced from the Bwindi Impenetrable forest when it was made a national park in 1991.
In the urge to protect the endangered mountain gorillas; Uganda’s most selling tourism product, the Batwa people were resettled outside the forest. Since then, they have lived in absolute poverty, lacking food and health care. The hospital was to initially provide health care to just the miserable Batwa, but not very later it had treat all people living in the area, serving three sub counties of Kayonza, Mpungu and Kanyantorogo in Kanungu district.
A clinic that started under a tree, it has grown into 112 bed hospital providing health services to over 100,000 people. Bwindi Community Hospital employs doctors, nurses, midwives and other health workers as well as the support staff. 70% of the staff are the local community members and just 30% from other parts of Uganda.
The community hospital is considered as one of the best hospitals in Sub Saharan Africa. The sustainable programs have steadfastly improved health care services in south western Uganda.
Beyond the reasonable doubt, this has all been as a result of tourism in south western Uganda. Tracing back to the roots of the community hospital, when it was just still under the tree. If it wasn’t for tourism that the Batwa were displaced from the impenetrable forest, no one would easily think about them. That is a moment when the bad went good.
The increased number of volunteers to this hospital has majorly resulted from tourism. Countless tourists on gorilla trekking safaris to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park have opted to stay behind, or even come back just for a volunteering safari at the Community hospital.
A portion of the 20% disbursement from the gorilla trekking fees to the local community has also been put to the construction and development of the Bwindi Community Hospital. This has been like a catalyst that has quickened the whole process.
It is still through tourism that Bwindi Community hospital has gained all the popularity it has now. If it was located in a non-tourism destination, perhaps it would not become popular the way it is now. A portion of the applause still goes to gorilla tourism in Uganda.
Note that the community hospital is located just one kilometer a way from Bwindi impenetrable forest; a home to over 700 mountain gorillas which is three quarters of the total number of mountain gorillas remaining on earth. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is only done in Bwindi and Mgahinga national park, both located in south western Uganda in the Virunga ranges shared by the three African countries of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.