You might not believe it but it was elephants – or what comes out of the back end of them – that first brought me to Uganda.
Colleagues back in London laughed out loud when I told them about the first project that the Uganda Conservation Foundation had planned for me: collecting elephant dung with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, all part of a global project to analyse and map elephant DNA and crack down on ivory poaching.
As it turned out, some other lucky bugger got this job, not the muzungu. Several weeks bouncing around in a 4 x 4 looking for elusive elephants may not have been quite as glamorous as I first thought anyway …
Regardless, the muzungu has a soft spot for elephant dung (yes, I know ‘I have issues’) so I was delighted to be invited on my next adventure with Julia, heading back to Ishasha, south western Uganda, to check out Deo’s Homestead Tour (originally developed and funded as part of the Ishasha Community Uplift Project).
What – no bananas? No baby Dillon to bounce on my knee?
Community tourism, elephant conservation, a chance to meet the farmers, solutions for managing ‘human wildlife conflict’ – this very cool project ticks all the right boxes for me – with OR without bananas.
Deo was full of smiles and runs a great Model Homestead. This charming little girl is one of his daughters. The even more charming muzungu is Yours Truly of course, ha ha, bleary-eyed after a night’s camping with Julia and no morning tea! EH BANANGE!
After two and a half years fundraising to protect farmers such as Deo and his family from crop raiding elephants, it was quite an honour to be invited to tour Deo’s Model Homestead in Ishasha, bordering Queen Elizabeth National Park. This community tourism project was originally part of the Ishasha Community Uplift Project – but is now (2017) managed by Deo himself. Deo and Agartha (a neighbouring lady farmer) stood out as exceptional members of their community group, transforming their homes (and thus their incomes and their health) into ‘model homesteads’ – community tourism projects like these are the perfect way to show tourists how rural Ugandans live.
Below, Deo burns a combination of elephant dung and homegrown chilli as a deterrent to would-be elephant encroachers. He was very proud to show us his techniques – but boy he lives on the edge. Fancy doing this every night, just to survive?
As well as a welcoming grin, Deo of course has an extra special feature: The Elephant Trench! – and he sure is proud of it!
We’re off to Kihihi again next week to see how Deo’s been getting on. I wonder what stories Deo will have in store for us? Which of his livestock has the leopard run off with this time? And more importantly, have the elephants visited recently?
Agartha’s “Taste of Uganda” is now the main Ishasha Community Uplift Project tourism experience. To book Agartha’s, call one or more days in advance. Telephone +256 (0)41 4322551 or +256 772 502155. Agartha and the community are working farmers and need to plan for your arrival.
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