Thriving together: How new enterprises around Kibale National Park are reducing poverty and saving endangered chimpanzees

Ending extreme poverty in Africa means more than simply striving for an economic goal—it also means ensuring everyone has the opportunity to build sustainable livelihoods where both people and the planet can thrive together.

That’s why we’re thrilled to announce on Earth Day new funding from the Arcus Foundation to expand Village Enterprise’s PARKS project in Kibale National Park, Uganda!

The Poverty Alleviation and Removal of Kibale Snares (PARKS) project, implemented in partnership with Ngogo Chimpanzee Project, was launched in 2021 with funding from the Arcus Foundation to reduce extreme poverty among rural communities near Kibale National Park and to protect one of the largest remaining populations of endangered East African chimpanzees and their habitat. Without opportunities to earn sustainable incomes, households living in extreme poverty near the park have often relied on illegal hunting and lumbering in order to provide for their families. Village Enterprise works to equip these communities with the training, startup funding, and ongoing business mentoring to launch businesses that do not harm vital ecosystems in and around Kibale National Park. As a result, households are able to earn greater incomes, break the cycle of extreme poverty, and become stewards of their environment.


An East African chimpanzee in Uganda. Photo credit: ©Annette Lanjouw / Arcus Foundation.

PARKS impact to date

Three years into this project, PARKS has already made a tangible impact in the Kibale National Park region. To date, Village Enterprise has trained 3,823 entrepreneurs (63% of whom are women) who have worked together in groups of three to launch 1,077 businesses in the area. As a result of their businesses, more than 20,000 lives have been impacted as these new business owners lift themselves and their families onto a sustainable pathway out of extreme poverty.



On top of these outcomes, Village Enterprise has helped establish 109 business savings groups (BSGs) as part of the PARKS project. The BSGs are a crucial part of our poverty graduation model—giving entrepreneurs a community where they are encouraged to put away savings on a weekly basis. They also provide an important safety net as entrepreneurs are able to access greater capital in the form of loans that they can take out in case of emergency or to further expand their business.

Last year, Village Enterprise also introduced a new component to strengthen the climate and conservation pillar of this project: conservation champions. Within each BSG, a conservation champion is selected, trained on conservation practices, and then equipped to share their expertise with BSG and community members. Together with their village, the conservation champion creates a tailored conservation plan for their community that supports the protection of wildlife and vital ecosystems. The conservation champions then work with fellow BSG members to ensure all newly-launched businesses are environmentally-friendly and conduct follow-up meetings to ensure actionable steps have been taken—at both the household and community level—towards achieving the village’s conservation plan. To date, Village Enterprise has trained and empowered 52 conservation champions.


Patrick, a conservation champion in Kasozi Village, leads a session with his business savings group on the importance of conservation.

On top of launching businesses to reduce the need for illegal hunting, and introducing conservation messaging to reduce habitat destruction, PARKS is taking another proactive measure to ensure the local population of endangered East African chimpanzees is protected. Through Ngogo Chimpanzee Project’s work on the project, 824 hunting snares have been removed from Kibale National Park. With active monitoring of park borders, anti-poaching patrols, and the removal of snares, PARKS aims to continue seeing diminished hunting in and around the park and an increase in the overall chimpanzee population.


Meet two extraordinary entrepreneurs

Wilson from Katabe Village

Prior to joining Village Enterprise, Wilson, 55, relied on farming and casual labor to provide for his eight children. His crops—which he planted in the wetlands of Mpanga in Kibale National Park—yielded very little each season and, unbeknownst to him, began to degrade the swamp’s ecosystem.

As Village Enterprise provided training on how to launch a sustainable business, the conservation messaging struck home for Wilson. He realized he needed to play an active role in restoring the wetlands and quickly got to work. By moving his crops inland and utilizing innovative farming techniques to maximize his smaller plot of land, Wilson began growing and selling cabbages, zucchini, and tomatoes, allowing the wetlands to naturally restore themselves. With his profits, Wilson diversified his income sources by launching a beekeeping business in the area. Not only does it provide a secondary source of income throughout the year, but the bees help pollinate gardens in the area and keep out roaming elephants, preventing a loss of damaged crops and reducing the chances of potential human-wildlife conflict.


Wilson operates his beekeeping business near Kibale National Park.

With the guidance of the conservation champion from his BSG, Wilson was also able to use some of his business profits to build energy-saving cooking stoves and plant 50 mango trees. Because these cooking stoves are more efficient than traditional stoves, they require less firewood which helps reduce the need for sourcing lumber. Additionally, the mango trees contribute both to the area’s biodiversity, and the fruit can be sold for profit or supplement his household’s food reserves. With his conservation champion’s guidance, Wilson has been able to restore the natural habitat around his community, and utilize the natural resources available in a way that does not harm the environment.


Left: Wilson stands in his garden and gathers tomatoes from his latest harvest. Right: Wilson stands among some of the mango trees he planted.

Wilson’s businesses have not only advanced conservation and habitat restoration, but they’ve impacted his own life and the lives of his children as well. Using his business profits, he’s been able to pay school fees for all of his children and has bought two cows and five goats. He plans to start selling their milk and offspring with the hopes of finishing a new home.


Wilson standing next to his first permanent house that he’s begun to build.

Grace from Busoro Hamusoko Village

Grace, 49, found farming increasingly difficult due to the unpredictable weather in her village brought on by climate change. As a single mother to nine children, she struggled to make enough money to provide for her children’s basic needs, such as consistent meals or paying for all of their school fees. But this all began to change when she joined Village Enterprise.

Through the training she received on business diversification, Grace knew that she needed to have multiple sources of income in order to build resilience and mitigate the risks caused by climate change. Together with her two business partners, they first launched a retail store selling household goods and food staples, and quickly used their profits to expand into goat rearing and growing maize. Collectively, these three businesses will support Grace and her business partners throughout the year as the weather patterns fluctuate.


Grace, left, with her two business partners in their retail store.

With additional training on the importance of conservation near Kibale National Park, Grace’s conservation champion also helped her plant coffee trees in the area. Not only will these trees contribute to reforestation and bolstering the ecosystem, but harvesting coffee beans from the trees will be yet another source of income that Grace can use to support her family.

Already, Grace has been able to pay school fees for her children and provide them with increased and more nutritious meals. Her dream is to be able to continue saving up enough to send all of her children to university, as well as build a new house. Through her hard work, creativity, and determination, she is well on her way.


The future of PARKS

With the new funding from the Arcus Foundation, 1,890 more entrepreneurs like Wilson and Grace will be equipped with the training, startup capital, and business mentoring to launch 630 environmentally-friendly businesses and lift themselves out of extreme poverty. The funding also provides resources for removing snares, furthering conservation messaging through 42 additional conservation champions, and implementing anti-poaching patrols to reduce illegal hunting and lumbering. As a result of these conservation efforts and the businesses launched, not only will 12,600 lives be transformed, but Kibale National Park’s ecosystem will be better safeguarded, and the population of endangered East African chimpanzees will be better protected.

By empowering local communities to launch sustainable business ventures, PARKS is providing a critical link between conservation efforts and the fight against extreme poverty in rural Africa. When individuals like Wilson and Grace are given the opportunity to thrive economically while preserving their natural environment, it not only enhances their livelihoods but contributes to building a sustainable future for all.

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