The United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) has donated road equipment to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) through its Uganda Biodiversity Program implemented by African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).
The equipment, which includes a grader, bulldozer, an excavator, a vibro roller, two tippers and one low-bed transporter, is worth $1.6m (about Shs 5.9bn) after taxes.
Sam Mwanda, a Usaid/Uganda senior Biodiversity Programme officer, said the money was part of the $10m support to biodiversity conservation in Uganda by the American government through the four-year program, which ends in August next year.
Established in 2012, the Usaid/Uganda Biodiversity Program was designed to address threats to Uganda’s biodiversity through supporting UWA and National Forestry Authority (NFA) in improving their capacity to develop and manage the parks’ and forest reserves’ infrastructure for monitoring and reducing threats to biodiversity.
The overall goal of the program is to achieve sustainable biodiversity conservation and local economic growth in Lake Mburo, Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley national parks, as well as Budongo and Kalinzu forest reserves.
“In the last three years, the program has been working with UWA to improve park management and we are certain that this road equipment will address several challenges and ease accessibility for both deployment and monitoring,” Mwanda said.
“We are aware UWA has not received any brand new road equipment for over a decade now and what they have was increasingly becoming a liability due to their high maintenance costs.”
Dr Andrew Seguya, UWA’s executive director, said the equipment would play a central role in their management of biodiversity, through opening and maintaining more access roads to enable easier ecological monitoring and patrols and to address illegal activities, especially in Kidepo Valley and Murchison Falls national parks, where poaching still remains a big threat.
“We all know that most of our parks are in the wild; very rural and untouched areas. This, therefore, makes access to them very difficult,” Dr Seguya said.
“Without this equipment, management of the parks is difficult and expensive and we can’t do timely response to illegal activities.”
Apart from opening up roads, Seguya said the equipment will play three other important roles. They will help in fighting fire outbreaks, solve human-wildlife conflict by building trenches to stop problem animals, especially elephants from crossing into people’s gardens, and help in the construction of water dams that animals can use during the dry seasons.
While receiving the equipment on behalf of government at Uganda museum recently, Patrick Mugoya, the permanent secretary at the ministry of tourism, wildlife and antiquities, applauded Usaid for their continuous contribution towards tourism.
Usaid’s environment unit leader Shawna Hirsch said Usaid has supported biodiversity conservation work in the country since the 1980s.