Last year, we shared a story about an incredible person named Keith Bitamazire. At the age of 24, Keith Bitamazire had an experience in Kenya that inspired him to do something about saving forests. He hated the country’s climate because it was very hot and believed it was as a result of not having enough trees. He never wanted the same to happen in Uganda, especially in the region where he would settle. Today, Keith is one of the private forest owners in Masindi, one of the Bunyoro districts that the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) is working with to ensure that he keeps his forest standing. Though he holds a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and was even once a pilot, he chose a life of conservation and now owns this 85 acre Rwangara / Siiba forest. Read the whole article and find out more about his work with JGI here.
When Dr. Goodall made a trip to Uganda, she was able to meet Keith and hear more of his story. Read this exclusive piece describing her interactions with Keith and what he and others like him mean for the future of conservation.
Thoughts from Jane on JGI in Uganda
Although it is some time since I was last in Uganda, visiting our JGI projects, I want to share the experience. It was uplifting, and a real reason for hope. I was travelling with some of the JGI team, including VP of Africa Programs Tammy Palmer, Panta Kasomo, Peter Apel, Walter Innman (from Austria) and others from our team.
This was a rare treat for me – actually visiting our projects, rather than staying in town for meetings and talks. We were headed from Kampala (where our JGI Uganda office is located) to villages in the area of the Albertine Rift where JGI is working to link up remaining forest patches to form a corridor for the movement of chimpanzees (and other animals, of course). On the way we passed a couple of areas where swamps had been drained for development. Peter had already told me about this big problem, and how it is affecting the level of water in Lake Victoria. Because of run-off during the rains, water that used to be captured in the swamps now drains into the lake – so that the water level is rising and some beaches have already disappeared. Unfortunately, people don’t understand the extremely important function of swamps.
Because I began the trip with this rather depressing situation, the experience the following day was even more exciting. We visited several communities where JGI is working with the people. Everywhere the situation is improving and more forest is being protected. At one point we crossed a very small stream that flowed into a small lake. There was forest all around. Here we stopped – Peter showed me a weathered notice with a photograph of what the same place looked like before the villagers were persuaded to stop efforts to cultivate to allow the trees to return. The photograph shows a completely dried up and barren stretch of land. As Peter said “This proves that it really is true. Restore the forest and water can return.”
Best of all was a visit to Keith Bitamazire. We sat in his house and discussed the difficulties of saving forests in the face of shortage of land and poverty. And the need to reduce human/wildlife conflict – which not only involves bushpigs and elephants, but also monkeys and chimpanzees. He also explained about the support they are receiving from JGI.
Keith’s story and the description of JGI’s involvement in the area is given in full, with photographs, in this blog.
Learn more about our work to save forests and improve the lives of people here.
The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.