On 8th March, 2014 – International Women’s Day, I spent a memorable afternoon doing what I love most – promoting rural tourism as a tool for income generation, women empowerment and community development!
I was invited by my friend Stella Rugunda–Bamu of STEBASAFARIS to see the fruits of the ideas I shared with her two years ago on how to transform her ancestral homestead and community into a tourism cultural village. I was so proud to witness Stella’s accomplishment in form of Rukoma Cultural Village in Isingiro District. I was a chief guest at a one day training which coincided with celebrations to commemorate International Women’s Day. The training was sponsored by DFCU Bank Mbarara branch, conducted by Arthur Rubaranga the Branch Manager and Justice Atwijukire, Retail Sales Officer. DFCU bank is promoting development programs with a special focus on women, encouraging group formation, and investment clubs. They facilitate registered groups to open bank accounts at no cost. The bank is encouraging the community to adopt a culture of saving through financial literacy programs and easy to operate accounts such as the Dembe account, which accepts deposits from as low as Sh. 100 onwards!
Rukoma community, with support from friends of STEBASAFARIS are in the process of getting clean piped water in their homes and a community primary school is getting a block of a toilet facility. DFCU Bank’s support also includes Heifer and chicken projects for the women. Among the guests was a team from Nature Uganda Mbarara University chapter. They had spent the day in the community, sensitizing them on the benefits of conservation in relation to sustainable natural resources usage and improving community livelihoods. According to Sr. Jane Yatuha, the Coordinator of Nature Uganda Western Branch, a number of bird species were identified on a nature walk that morning. The Team commemorated their visit by planting trees at the Cultural Village compound.
In my brief, I thanked Stella and recognized her developmental spirit for the betterment of her community. I encouraged the community to take advantage of DFCU Bank support, Nature Uganda, and Rukoma Cultural Village to develop cultural community tourism. They could benefit from taking advantage of their location, whereby the community is situated along a newly tarmac highway to the UN Millennium Village Project of Ruhiira. I explained how they can tap into the flow of UN staff and international travelers to Ruhiira and Rukoma Cultural Center. I enlightened them on the potential embedded within their surrounding environment including birds, whereby they can through tourism conduct bird watching tours, tap into their indigenous knowledge and skills to create handcrafts and host visitors without leaving their homes. I highlighted the linkage between the natural environment and culture as attractions and how tourism is the only industry in which the buyer brings money to the seller! When Rukoma Cultural Village is completed and certified as a COBATI Partner destination, it will raise the profile of community based tourism in south western Uganda.