Uganda to host International Conference for Women Birders in December.

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Uganda will host the International Conference for Women Birders from 6th to 8th December 2023. The conference that will be hosted in Kampala will mark a momentous occasion in the world of bird watching, as it will recognize and celebrate the contributions of women birders to the fields of birding, conservation, and environmental awareness.

Bird watching is a globally cherished activity, with over 80 million enthusiasts travelling to different parts of the world. On average, birders spend about 20 days during their trips, contributing over $350 per day to the local economies. With a target of welcoming 100,000 birders into the country per year by 2030, Uganda is poised to earn USD $700 million and create over 3000 direct jobs.

Being Uganda’s First International Conference for Women Birders signifies the government and the people’s commitment to women empowerment, nature conservation, and ecotourism development. Uganda boasts a recorded count of over 1100 bird species, with nearly two-thirds of them found in the country’s forests. Among these, 11% are of global population significance, while 55% are African species.

Bird watching in Uganda has experienced significant growth, with over 400 active birders, including 120 females, compared to less than 10 in 1995. The country offers rich birding packages, with birding trails around conservation areas and local bird photographers, including women. The recorded bird species have risen to 1100, and birding now ranks among the top 5 tour packages sold by operators, reflecting the growing demand for this unique and diverse experience.

The theme of this year’s conference is “To exist in a world where women birders are recognized and celebrated for their contributions to birding, conservation, and environmental awareness.” It reflects the commitment to empower and uplift women birders and acknowledge their invaluable contributions.

This conference is organized by the Uganda Women Birders, Uganda Safari Guides Association, Bird Uganda Safaris, and other stakeholders and sponsored by Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) and other partners. The conference is further guided by a Board that is composed of women birders from Europe, USA, South America, China, Australia, and Africa.

Mr Stephen Asiimwe, the Chief Executive Officer of the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda said that the country had now matured as an international birding destination in the region mainly because of conservation efforts, location along the equator and climate, improved infrastructures, security and improved internet connectivity.

These, he said, although not yet sufficient, can be leveraged to increase the number of visitors coming into the county with the purpose of birding.

He added that more efforts from both the government and the private sector were still needed to market the product so as to attract both local and top-dollar tourists.

“Birding in Uganda has the potential to improve from the level it is now to earning us millions of dollars each year. The issue of birding is a mindset issue the private sector and other partners can change. The communities where these birds are should be made to appreciate the need for these birds,” he said.

Government – Private Sector partnership.

On behalf of the Government of Uganda, Hon. Martin Mugarra Bahinduka, the state minister for tourism welcomed the conference. He noted that as a way of further supporting the tourism industry, the government is working with telecom companies to establish more masts across national parks to ensure seamless connectivity.

“We are looking at having over 60 more masts added in the national parks so that both voice and data network are stable for tourists to easily communicate. We are also speaking to our partners to find ways of addressing the issue of the high cost of devices and data that are key in promoting tourism.”

Women play a vital role in ecotourism development, nature conservation, and birding. They contribute as tour guides, researchers, and conservationists, promoting sustainability and community involvement. Their active participation empowers local communities, fosters biodiversity protection, and enhances eco-friendly practices, making a significant impact on environmental conservation and sustainable tourism growth.

Additionally, Isabella Kankunda Sabune, the PSFU Tourism Industry Specialist noted that the International Women Birders’ conference will not only showcase Uganda’s Tourism diversity but also create dignified opportunities for Youth and Women.

“As PSFU, we are committed to empowering the Youth and Women. We are very excited to be part of this. Creation of jobs for Youth and Women is the overall goal of the Lead Firm Structure program that we are implementing in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.”

Currently, PSFU is partnering with Uganda women birders to train more women in the birding sector to provide much-needed guiding services to tourists.

Uganda witnessed the inception of Women Birders in 2013, starting with just nine girls. Today, this undertaking has grown to include over 150 women birders from various regions of the country. These women are engaged in diverse professions, including jobs, business ownership, guiding, and driving, showcasing their dedication and passion for birding.