As Bwindi impenetrable park Ecosystem flourishes with the captivating  and impenetrable canopy of  forests species , accompanied  with  a stunning abundancy of over 160 Species of trees, 100 Species of Ferns ,120 Species of Mammals and a blossoming  home to about 459 endangered mountain gorillas, The local indigenous populations subsisting within the marginal frontline villages in Bwindi  , still grapple with a limited or no access to forest  medicinal herbs from different forest,  which  in decades ago offered  immediate curation to their common  ailments while they still lived  in the Forest.

Endangered Gorilla families in Bwindi


For years, the forest was a home to indigenous populations of Batwa who were living in the forest and would enjoy a number forest resources like medicinal herbs, edible plants, timber and often hunt to survive. However, as the conservation need arose to protect the growing biodiversity and effective protection of nationally valuable mountain Gorilla species, the gazettement of Bwindi as national park made it inevitable for this indigenous populations to be evicted from forest and forced to leave outside peripheral marginal lands around the park. 

Recognizing the intrinsic link between nature and well-being of communities, on 10th and 11th of January 2024,  Environment Governance Institute (EGI),  rolled  out a training of Bwindi frontline communities  on Agro-forestry Livelihood Patterns like medicinal and Timber wood lot growing ,organic vegetable and  fruit seedlings so as to  maximise  their potential to tap into profitable value chains from Agro-forestry, with deliberate move to  foster medicinal agroforestry trees in these communities and harnessing the Agro-forestry tress species to provide both health benefits and sustainable livelihoods to communities.

The training attracted participants from Buzaniro frontline village in Ruhija subcounty and other villages for Irwaro, Rubona, Nkwenda, Mukongoro, and kashebeya vilages in Buhoma Kanungu District. The training was part of the ongoing project empowering communities for

EGI Saff and some members of Buzaniro village in ruhija Bwindi, in one of site mapped for planting pines and medicinal Tree species

sustainable conservation of mountain Gorillas in Bwindi, funded By IUCN Save Our Species.

The training was informed by a situational analysis of one of the voices from Jackline Musiime, a Batwa woman from Buhoma, she asserted “unrestricted access to forest deprives us of chance to get medicinal herbs” yet we don’t have money.

The training hatched a good deal to engage with communities of Ruhija and Buhoma, upon which a list various   medicinal Agro-forestry tress was identified through the help of Mzee Owoyesigire Narsi a local forester in Ruhija, who lived around edges of forest for over a decade. The mapping of the medicinal forest species was further aided by some forest official from Institute of Tropical Forest conservation.

A Group- photo with some of the Buzaniro groups, EGI Staff next to Mr. Owesigire Narsi Forester Forester

Among the Medicinal tress species identified were Prunus Africana, Porinari excelsa, Neem, Moringa Graviola and podicapus tress species among others. These tree species were thought to offer medicinal benefits to the   local population and were used to treat aliments like cough, deworming and would offer after birth massage to pregnant mothers. However other tress species like pines, mahogany, Tick. Eucalyptus was identified for timber. The ultimate move was to lessen the move of communities to encroach park for timber and medicinal herbs which risk them of getting arrested by rangers.  EGI in partnership with UWA, local forest officials have acknowledged that having this species integrated and planted as Agro- forestry woodlots within community farms shall trigger long-term health benefits and well being of these communities. This will ultimately reduce their risk of encroaching the park for medicinal Herbs and reduce on their possibility of getting tempted to lay traps in park that often injure Gorilla species.

According to Byarugaba Richard, a former forest dweller in Ruhija- Bwindi, “during our time in the forest, we used to prepare medicine by combining crushed and debarked Omusamba (Porinari excelsa) and Omushaga (Prunus Africana) stems to treat cough, ulcers, and even deworming ourselves.” 

EGI seeks to Enhanced Health and Well-being of frontline communities through introduction and planting of medicinal agroforestry trees that will brings access to a varied range of traditional herbal remedies. Locals can use these natural remedies to treat common ailments such as malaria, malnutrition, respiratory disorders, and skin infections. Further still, EGI hopes to scale out growing of agroforestry species like Caliandra, Eucalyptus another floral species around bee keeping projects to enhance colonisation of hives.

A call for concerted efforts from various stakeholders such Uganda Wildlife Authority, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation and Bwindi surrounding districts to scale up the approach and promote the promotion of medicinal agroforestry trees among Bwindi communities. By connecting these local populations with the healing power of Bwindi Forest within communities without encroaching park Ecosystem, ultimately enhancing health outcomes, conserve the Gorilla Species and habitats and open doors to sustainable livelihoods. As we move forward, it is imperative that we rally behind and support the cultivation of medicinal agroforestry trees, woodlot for timber empowering these communities to build a healthier, more resilient future for themselves and the unique ecosystem they call home. 

By Mr. Okwi John Peter, Program Coordinator, Environment Governance Institute

This publication was produced with the financial support of  IUCN Save Our Species. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Environment Governance Institute and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN