Our planet is awe-inspiring, giving life to lakes, rivers, forests, mountains, and oceans teeming with diverse wildlife species, but it unceasingly needs our support to thrive. On April 22, 2023, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) joined over a billion people to celebrate Earth Day under the theme ‘Invest in Our Planet.’ AWF works with local authorities and agencies to support protected area management and with communities to foster sustainable and conservation-friendly utilization of natural resources to make the world a better and healthier place to live.
With climate change and global warming driving biodiversity loss in addition to detrimental human activities, concerted efforts are needed to restore the environment. In Uganda, AWF has focused on reducing threats to wildlife through community empowerment, establishing community-owned conservation enterprises, and partnering with Uganda Wildlife Authority and National Forestry Authority to deliver conservation outcomes.
Promoting primary education in the Kidepo landscape
AWF believes that environmental and conservation literacy is key in creating jobs while equipping citizens to engage with their governments in meaningful ways to address the surging climate crisis.
Over the last few years, AWF’s Classroom Africa program has constructed, upgraded, and rebuilt school facilities for communities living near the Kidepo Valley National Park in northeast Uganda. Kidepo Primary School and Sarachom Primary School, completed in 2021, are a testament to AWF’s belief that education is the bedrock of African leadership.
Since opening, both schools have seen a considerable spike in school attendance within the landscape. The teachers are also trained to deliver learning activities, both inside and outside the classroom, that build student awareness of their immediate environment and broader conservation issues. The program has ensured that learners receive high-quality education and become learned and engaged environmental stewards.
Lotuk Gax Gabriel, the headteacher of Kidepo Primary School, said, “AWF’s support to the school has attracted many pupils, and their friendship with wildlife and their surroundings is immense. Our uniqueness as a school now is how aware of and friendly we are with our environment.”
AWF supports tree planting efforts
Last year, AWF organized a series of conservation education activities that culminated in tree planting. AWF provided grafted mango and tangerine trees to both Classroom Africa schools. The trees were planted in the schools to provide shade and fruits in the future. Additionally, the pupils were educated on the importance of planting trees in restoring the environment and the economic value that comes with investing in nature in the long run.
Gabriel continued, “In addition to the fruit trees provided by AWF, we are encouraged to plant more tree species without destroying the existing ones.”
Reviving wildlife and environmental clubs
AWF continuously strengthens wildlife and environmental clubs in schools. With over 70 percent of Uganda’s population being youth, AWF ensures that tomorrow’s custodians of the environment are equipped with the best conservation education to inform their interactions with nature and policies when it is their time to lead. The Kidepo Primary School and Sarachom Primary School libraries have been stocked with various volumes of interactive and educative conservation-based books accessible to all pupils.
“As the school administration, we have ensured that wildlife and environmental clubs remain vibrant. “We appreciate the support of AWF because the impact is very vivid,” Gabriel said. As the world grapples with climate change and its effects, our planet requires a combined effort to preserve life on Earth. Like AWF’s CEO Kaddu Sebunya always says, conservation is not a one-man show. It is up to us all to rise and protect the Earth and all its benefits.