Transforming Park Edge Communities through Mindset Change

The landscape in Kisoro

The Vanishing Treasures project being implemented by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), has extensive experience in working with communities in the Virunga region, particularly in training on climate-smart agriculture and ecosystem-based adaptation.

However, IGCP has employed a mindset change tool to respond to human-wildlife conflict, promote alternative livelihoods, and mitigate the impacts caused by climate change and socio-economic pressures in the area.

Mindset Change Approach

Inside Peninah Mushabe’s house, she hosted a group of Journalists from Uganda and Rwanda

Peninah Mushabe, a 35-year-old and mother of 5 from Nombe Cell, Nombe Ward, Rubugiri Town Council in Kisoro district narrates how a team from the Vanishing Treasures project approached her for a village meeting and that is how she was able to be part of the different trainings which have been a life-changing game for her.

According to the mother of 5, the most important thing they were taught was “mindset change”. “We were kind of locked in reverse as we used to do things and gave up easily but of late, we are trying to figure out what the issues are, and what is causing the failure and we try to combat these issues. The mindset change training has helped us a lot as a community,” she shares

They were also shown how they had important things like land, and forests around them that were vanishing from them as a result of human destruction. “They taught us how we could improve them but also sustain ourselves,” she says

“We went through some training, had some land where were we cultivating, they showed us how to make terraces and mulch. While we had forests we were doing a lot of deforestation, we were taught how to make eco stoves that do not consume a lot of firewood. Right now we use less firewood because of these eco stoves and we are not applying too much pressure on our forests. I am one of the experts in making the stoves in my village,” she narrates

Mushabe shows off her eco stove. “I am one of the experts in making the stoves in my village.”

Mushabe adds that harvesting wasn’t that much at the time, but through the training, they were taught good farming methods like mulching and terracing. “Our crop yields have since then increased compared to the former days. Currently, we look after our banana plantations better as we used to just dig out the stems. We have been taught a better way of cultivating these bananas, and this has helped us improve our yields as big bananas are being harvested. All these benefits are a result of the training that was brought to us,” the mother of 5 confirms

However, as another benefit of the mindset change training, the communities were also taught home gardening where they could farm vegetables.

“We used to have these greens but they were being farmed from far gardens so we couldn’t have them on time. But since we learned farming them close to our homes, we consume them daily and even then the health of our children has improved and this also applies to us the adults,” she adds

Sanitation is enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals and is a cornerstone of the fight against poverty. Lack of basic sanitation puts millions of lives at risk and is responsible for a quarter of all child deaths in developing countries every year. Therefore lack of sanitation and poor hygiene also severely limit the impact of other development interventions in education, health, rural and urban development.

Through the project, they have taught these communities how to maintain hygiene and sanitation by cleaning their homes before they leave for farm work. “In case we have visitors, they can always find our homes clean,” Mushabe says

According to the Project Assistant, Mr. Kenneth Kabebasiza the communities themselves hold the keys to their development rather than depending on external support. “They just need to have an attitude change and embrace innovations that can increase their productivity.”

Through collaborative efforts with the local government, Kabebasiza says that they have been able to implement the mindset change tool something that has provided manpower through the expertise of the agriculture officers and veterinary officers among others.


The Project Assistant says that lack of Self-belief is the biggest challenge towards mindset change. “Not many community members believe in themselves. They are naive and have a fear of the unknown. This coupled with low incomes is the biggest hindrance to their capacities,” he points out

“The people are stuck with their mindset and it is not a one-day thing, you have to use examples where it has worked before, and from the different interactions is when someone begins to appreciate. Most people are in their comfort zone therefore getting a person out of the comfort zone is really difficult,” he explains

While implementing the activities, Kebebasiza notes that culture plays a big role in the mindset change. Talking about gender roles and responsibilities where many think a woman or a man has to do a specific role. “So to change this narrative takes time. This needs a person to first appreciate, and accept that they have a problem so they need to solve it and this helps us to shift their minds,” he insists


Laurent Fouinat, a Senior Expert Mountain Environment at Polar and Climate Programme commends that at least in Uganda and for the Bwindi National Park there are mechanisms put in place like compensation funding, tourism, clients, and practitioners something needed to continue responding to the pressing needs in the region.

“So I would say expanding those mechanisms in more areas and communities would be important, but also making sure that they work properly,” he suggests

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)

Mr. Dickson Katana the warden in charge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park confirmed being part and supportive of the Vanishing Treasure Project.

He notes that the area is water stressed where women go as far as 3 kilometers to fetch water since most homesteads lack water tanks for water harvesting but because this project has taught mindset change on how to use the land for agriculture, strategic planning in homesteads where families sit down to plan has been very key.

“As park management especially on our side, this helped us with mindset change for example one of the community members who was a notorious poacher surrendered against poaching,” he appreciates

“This was a good development brought to us by Vanishing Treasures and we look forward to engaging more and more with this project for the benefit of the community because the moment communities are happy by having water, and food and have a good relationship with the park management. The less involvement in the protected area,” he enlists

Katana says that the best method of looking at conservation at its peak is engaging communities as opposed to arresting them, and that is community conservation.

“Looking forward we shall be working closely with the communities as a result of this project. Considering that our mission is to conserve, economically develop, sustainably manage wildlife, and protect areas of Uganda in partnership with the local communities and stakeholders.”

The Vanishing Treasures Project

The Vanishing Treasures project aims to enhance climate resilience of mountain communities, species, and ecosystems by applying climate-smart conservation and ecosystem-based adaptation approaches in support of sustainable livelihoods and land use.

The targeted higher-level outcome of the project is that “ecosystem-based adaptation and climate-smart wildlife conservation is integrated into planning and policy processes.

The Vanishing Treasures project is a global project funded by the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg through United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).






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