Bringing Business and Savings to Protected Forest Communities

Village Enterprise teams up with the Wildlife Conservation Society to provide a week-long business and savings training to Community Based Forest Monitors in Uganda. Innovations Fellow Nafees Ahmed comments on her experience planning the training session.

A group of Community Based Forest Monitors huddle over a large sheet of white paper, discussing and debating essential elements to include in a Business Savings Group constitution. The conversation picks up momentum as the participants heatedly discuss which environmental clauses to include in their constitution. This activity was part of Village Enterprise’s five-day business and savings training for 30 Community Based Forest Monitors from the Northern Albertine Rift Conservation Group (NARCG), a consortium of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Chimpanzee Trust, Jane Goodall Institute and Flora and Fauna International held in Hoima, Uganda.

With a long history in alternative livelihood development in forested areas, Village Enterprise recently expanded its work through a partnership with WCS as part of the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) program in western Uganda. WCS is one of the oldest and most respected international conservation organizations in the world and works to conserve more than two million square miles of wild places across the globe. In this case WCS and partners are working with private forest owners (PFO) in the Murchison–Semliki landscape to manage and conserve their native forests by providing a package of incentives, including rural financial services. This work builds off previous WCS-Village Enterprise collaboration: last year Village Enterprise set up six Business Saving Groups in two Private Forest Owners Associations in the district of Hoima. In just two months, some of these groups saved more than a million Ugandan shillings ($290 USD)!

In January 2016, Village Enterprise led a Training of Trainers (ToT) program for Forest Monitors. Forest Monitors, whose community peers identified them to implement conservation practices, play an integral role in carrying out REDD+ activities. At the completion of the January training, the Forest Monitors will, in turn, reach out to other Private Forest Owner Associations, set up Business Saving Groups, and stress the importance of savings and its ability to strengthen the conservation work of the Associations.

The Village Enterprise ToT program focused on adult education, basic savings, record keeping, business savings group formation, and business savings group loaning and lending. Before the ToT, WCS identified private-sector partnerships with four environmentally friendly businesses: maize production, briquette making (a sustainable alternative to charcoal), bee-keeping, and tree and bamboo planting, and Village Enterprise tailored it’s training to these business types.

Village Enterprise trainings for Forest Monitors were interactive and hands-on. Forest Monitors designed their own savings plans and constitutions, and identified which times of the year are most difficult to save in rural areas—vital to preparing annual savings. They also traveled to Village Enterprise villages to witness business training sessions, as well as Business Savings Group meetings. After the classroom training, Village Enterprise will mentor Forest Monitors to provide follow-up, on-the-ground training support. We’re happy to report that the Community Based Forest Monitors now have the skills to conduct these trainings and mentor Private Forest Owners in saving in their own communities.

Dr. Miguel E. Leal, Albertine Rift REDD+ Program Manager, the WCS lead for this partnership affirmed, “Working with Village Enterprise has been great and we are looking forward to expanding our collaboration across the Albertine Rift.”

For Ellen Metzger, Village Enterprise’s Director of Strategic Partnerships and Innovation, “micro-enterprise development is an excellent way to demonstrate to people living below the poverty line that environmental programming in their communities works in tandem with their interests. We’re promoting the message that in order to meet conservation goals, we also need to help families improve their standard of living so that they can invest in their children’s education and future. When those two interests intersect, it creates strong community support for conservation programs.”

Village Enterprise is excited about the opportunity to expand their work in the areas of alternative livelihoods through partnership with conservation programs and groups like Poverty Conservation Learning Group (PCLG) and NARCG.

For more information about Village Enterprise’s alternative livelihood work, please visit our website: And if you’re interested in partnering with us in our effort to expand our alternative livelihoods approach, please contact Ellen Metzger at

For more information about WCS’s work with REDD+ in Uganda visit:

This work was funded by Wildlife Conservation Society with grants from Tullow Oil Uganda, the Darwin Initiative and the Waterloo Foundation.

Village Enterprise Business Mentor Evelyne Kusiima poses a savings related question to Forest Monitors. Business Mentor Evelyne Kusiima poses a savings related question to Forest Monitors.
African Forest Monitors mark a chart Forest Monitors engage in an interactive activity charting income fluctuations by season.
Village Enterprise Business Mentor Evelyne Kusiima leads a business savings group training for Community Based Forest Monitors in Bulimya Village, Uganda. Village Enterprise Business Mentor Evelyne Kusiima leads a business savings group training for Community Based Forest Monitors in Bulimya Village, Uganda.

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