Vanessa Mulondo | A Passion for Nature
A Passion for Nature
In Uganda wildlife conservation has historically been male-dominated. However over the years it has become more open to women, and nowadays they work as rangers, birders, reptile handlers, zookeepers and environmental scientists, though challenges remain. Florence Kyalimpa, an Environmental Impact Assessment Officer working for the Uganda Wildlife Authority says that the main challenge she’s faced so far is trying to juggle family life with work. “My work takes place outside of Kampala- we move from one protected area to another and can spend about two weeks in the field.” There is no provision for her to travel with her children.
Certain stereotypes still persist and dissuade women from taking part in wildlife conservation efforts. Working in the sector requires bravery, courage and energy, traits that are stereotypically male, and working conditions are often rough and presented as unsuitable for women. It is also a dangerous job. Annasezi Muhindo, a ranger working in Kibale National Forest Park, describes witnessing the death of one of her colleagues. “We were out on patrol and he was walking a few meters ahead of me when he was shot dead by a poacher. That is still the hardest time in my career.” However, she insists that men, too, have a hard time working in these conditions but it’s the nature of the job, and that she has had more good experiences than bad.
Edith Namirembe works with reptiles at the Uganda Reptile Village. “People have a negative attitude towards working with reptiles. I’ve realised that people have misconceptions about reptiles and I try to change their attitudes towards them.” She describes sitting next to people who ran away from her the moment she mentioned she works with reptiles. Nora Mbubi, a warden in Kibale National Forest Park, frequently goes out into the community to talk to them about what is happening in the forests and to get them involved. She also encourages them to identify poachers and individuals who are destroying the environment or who might pose a threat to the indigenous wildlife.
Florence Kyalimpa’s job is to oversee that organisations or individuals that want to carry out projects in protected areas have properly identified the environmental and social impacts and have established mitigation measures to reduce the intensity of the negative impact. “I came into this sector because I fell in love; it is the passion for nature, I love seeing animals.” There’s plenty of natural resources found within the boundaries of national parks and reserves that a lot of organisations and individuals want to exploit. By following the right procedures and protocols, Florence ensures that development projects can be done in an environmentally sensitive manner and impacts can be minimised.
It becomes difficult to reach out to a lot of communities to sensitise them about the importance of wildlife conservation and the impact it has on us when we do not take initiative to take better care of our environment. Few people work in this field and even fewer of them are women, but the presence of women in conservation leads to better outcomes, contributing to broader gender equity and to global transformation towards a more sustainable relationship between humans and the natural world, and therefore shaping the direction and progress of wildlife conservation in Uganda.