A group of reformed poachers have traded their snares in for spades and joined the Gorilla Organization's pioneering sustainable agriculture programme in Uganda.
For years, the men trekked into the Bwindi National Park, illegally setting traps on the forest floor. While these traps were put down to catch small mammals such as antelope and duiker, which would either be eaten or sold at market, cases of young gorillas being caught in rope snares are only too common in this part of Africa.
However, thanks to the ongoing success of the Gorilla Organization's sustainable agriculture programme, communities are learning how they can make a viable living without relying on the resources found within the protected forest. Already, more than 100 people have benefited from the programme, with this new group of beneficiaries to join them in being trained in sustainable agriculture techniques, including the effective storing of seeds and efficient harvesting.
In a special ceremony held in Rubuguri, which is just to the south of Bwindi, the men handed over the tools of their former trade to Gideon Ahebwa, the President's representative in the district. Joining the District Commissioner in congratulating the men on their new lives were a number of Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers, including Pontius Ezuma, the Conservation Area Manager for both Bwindi and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
"This is a great illustration of how our community conservation projects really are transforming lives in some of the poorest parts of Africa," says Gorilla Organization Executive Director Jillian Miller.
As well as being trained in modern agricultural skills, the reformed poachers will also benefit from literacy and numeracy training, giving them the skills they need to sell any crops they do grow and so gain a valuable income without having to rely on the natural resources found inside Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to around a third of all the mountain gorillas left on earth.
To see more pictures from the special ceremony, visit the Gorilla Organization's blog from the field.