Gorillascapes: re-negotiating conservation, tourism and rural development at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, South Western Uganda

By Christine Ampumuza MSc.
Historically, the Bwindi forest has been an arena of controversies. Although these controversies initially took the shape of inter-tribal conflicts (Turyagyenda, 1964), with the gazzetement of the forest as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the controversies turned to be mainly over conservation and livelihoods. To address these controversies, negotiations between protected area authorities and resident communities resulted in various interventions such as controlled harvest of non timber forest products, zoning to allow community activities such as bee keeping on the park boundaries, community-based conservation and gorilla tourism with a revenue sharing scheme (Ampumuza, 2011). Although these interventions have addressed some of the challenges at BINP, recent controversies over road constructions, Batwa historical rights and gorilla habituation has produced new configurations aiming at governing the BINP landscape warrant further research.

This research engages with the ongoing negotiations around the controversial projects at Bwindi as an entry point to understand the intricacies of landscape governance processes. As a result, it contributes both empirically and theoretically to the emerging body of literature on the landscape governance approach to natural resources management. The project draws from Actor-Network Theory (ANT) concepts of relational materiality, multiplicity and ordering to reconceptualise landscape governance as an unending ordering process through which various human and non-human entities continuously interact to produce multiple versions of the gorilla-dominated landscape, thus the title Gorillascapes.

This  qualitative research employs mixed methods (such as Participant Observation, Focus Group Discussion and Semi Structured Interviews) to understand the various ways through which the Bwindi landscape is enacted, and to illuminate the processes through which controversies emerge, the consequences of such controversies, and how they are addressed.

Prof. dr. Rene van der Duim
dr. Martijn Duineveld
dr. Wilber M. Ahebwa, Makerere University, Uganda