Grant Recipients Conference, Uganda 2018

Grant Recipients Conference, Uganda 2018

18-20 January 2018


I, Karenzi Alphonse, am a very grateful RSG Recipient. I have successfully implemented four RSG projects and applied for the final Rufford Completion Grant. I also happened to organize three Rufford Conferences: the first one in Rwanda in 2014, the second in Ghana in 2016 and the third one in Uganda in 2018. Honestly, if there is something behind my success in conservation and NGO leadership career, the Rufford Foundation, through its small grants and conferences, is the number one factor behind my success and my impact on environment and people around East Africa. I would say: The RSG's gave me access to THE RIGHT FINANCIAL RESOURCES I needed to do the work and the Rufford Conferences gave me access to THE RIGHT PEOPLE I needed to expand my work – the people whose stories inspired me and whose contacts opened doors for me.

Before getting the RSG funding I was full of dreams and burning passion to do something about local disappearing forests, but unfortunately very frustrated as my project proposals were often rejected by different donors, just because I had no association with any registered conservation organization. Thus, I always remember and feel proud to share my story about my journey from where the 1st RSG found me to where the 2nd Booster Grant has got me:

“The 1st RSG funding found me struggling to build a local team and helped me establish my dream organization Sustaining Africa Youth Organization (SAYO) where I now have empowered dozens of young co-workers in Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. The RSG enabled me to find just the right stove design but now I have disseminated more than 3000 fuelwood saving stoves in poor families in remote area.

Apart from the RSG projects in Rwanda, I have, for instance, a project that daily serves more than 300 former street children whom we have rehabilitated in schools in different parts of Uganda. In fact, one of our graduate children (Deo Patrick) gave back to the Rufford Foundation by volunteering in shooting and editing the Rufford Uganda Conference photos and video. Many people use to ask me how I have been able to expand my organization and its impact in foreign countries, I gave many answers but the truth is the Rufford Rwanda Conference in 2014 which connected me to the right people namely; Dr. Steven Bagambe and Mr. David Nkwanga who later became my contact persons and inspiration.

I therefore thank The Rufford Foundation for its small grants programme and life-changing conferences. I also encourage the fellow recipients to attend the Rufford Conferences. I attended the Ghana one but the stories, skills and contacts I gained from there changed my life. As a matter of fact, I got an accident after the conference in that foreign country Ghana. But while in the hospital, the fellow Rufford recipients (headed by Dr. Justus Precious Deikumah and his secretary Maria whom we had just known each other from the conference) took a better brotherly care for me than the care I would receive from my own people in Rwanda. Actually, the Rufford Conferences opened my mind and I realised that I potentially have the source of great inspirations, ideas and contact persons in 157 countries in one place


This conference had “Connect for Nature Conservation” as its theme and two following main objectives:

1. To enhance the direct communication and partnership between the regional RSG recipients by providing a forum for them to know each other, discuss ideas and issues; share the best practices and strengthen the regional RSG network;
2. To promote and celebrate the role that The Rufford Foundation plays in supporting conservation at local, national and international level, through group discussions and presentations, celebration and entertainment sessions, and display of promotion materials.


This conference brought together 50 people (10 females and 40 males) from 7 countries namely: Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and United Kingdom. Among 50 participants, 28 were the RSG Recipients, 5 invited guests and journalists, and 17 interested non-recipient conservationists. Kindly find attached the detailed lists of participants in the annex of this report.


Day 1: Wednesday, 17th January

Wednesday 17th January, 2018 was the day of welcoming the regional participants upon their arrival at the Entebbe International Airport and Different Bus terminals in Kampala, though some of the participants from Congo and Rwanda had arrived a day before. There were cars organized to pick participants from their arrival points to the hotel and return them after the conference. These three drivers did a great job as no participant waited so long or missed his bus.

Around 8:30pm, the arrived participants gathered for an outside lake view dinner at Sienna Hotel– a buffet and drinks accompanied by refreshing soft music. This dinner was planned to start at 7:30pm but because of the flies/ insects which had covered the whole place, we had to wait for around an hour for these flies to go away. Finally most flies died and others went away and participants enjoyed their dinner and evening interactions.

After dinner, Alphonse led participants into the briefings and task sharing session. Participants enjoyed the idea of self-organization whereby every conference session was to be chaired by someone from the participants themselves. And the task sharing session was very participatory especially when it came to choose who is going to chair which session and discuss on how the discussion groups for the next day session would be formed.

As it was for the previous Rufford Conferences in Rwanda and Ghana, some participants supported the idea of forming groups randomly while others were strongly about forming groups based on thematic areas. Eventually they democratically decided to form four groups according to four thematic areas namely: 1) Sustainable energy; 2) Community conservation; 3) Research and conservation; and 4) Climate change. Each group was to elect president and secretary who will lead and present their group discussions. The participants went to sleep with high expectations and excitements for the next day session.

Day Two: Thursday, 18th January

This was the first day of the conference. The participants were excited and looking forward to the start of a beautiful sunny day at the shores of Lake Victoria. The day started with the registration of the participants guided by the conference organisers under the leadership of Mr Alphose Karenzi and his assistant Ms Sumaya Nabatanzi.

Introduction of Participants, a session chaired by Dr. Margaret Owuor - At around 10 am, Dr. Margaret Owuor took the participants through the process of introducing themselves so that they get to know who was in the room. This was a short exercise creating an atmosphere that was good for networking among the participants. The introduction took the following format (your name, country, organization, area of specialization and interest in conservation).

After the introduction, Mr. Alphonse Karenzi welcomed the participants to Uganda and thanked them for taking time to come to the conference. Mr. Karenzi gave a brief story of his journey as a conservationist. How he came from a remote village where he was not known but now he has grown over the years to become a renowned conservationist. He has organised three Rufford Conferences in different countries. He encouraged the participants to expand their network and know what other people are doing.

Alphonse further mentioned that the Rufford Conference has enabled him link and collaborate with people from Uganda. You could think that you know so much, but when you share with other people you realise that you learn something new. Mr. Karenzi also explained to the members in brief what The Rufford Foundation is and the types of grant stages. The Director Josh Cole was present and took notes throughout the conference.

Official opening ceremony chaired by Dr. Bagambe Steven - Dr. Bagambe guided this session and welcomed the participants to Uganda being a native. Dr. Bagambe took us though the programme and in-house rules. We had to adjust the programme since the guest speakers whom we were waiting for to officially open the conference were late. He called upon the participants to come and share their experiences. This was based on what they have learnt from their small projects and the challenges they faced.

Experience sharing

Rwandese student and 1st RSG applicant- Rudasingwa Venuste said that he was inspired by Mr. Karenzi to join the field of conservation. “he asked Mr. Karenzi to take him and work with him to help him succeed”. Mr Karenzi invited him to a conference in Rwanda so that he could learn from the other participants. He is currently working with more than 200 youths and Mr. Karenzi gave him the seed money to initiate his project. It was noted that Rufford Foundations sometimes does not have to fund as directly, however, there is the spillover effect.

Kenyan politician and 1st RSG recipient - Mr. Cosmas Nzilili mentioned how he has been working with primary schools in his region on tree planting and awareness on the impacts of hunting wildlife for bush meat. He did not know what to expect from his project, since he began small but the project grew up and he has since taken two best students to Indonesia through the TUKUZA funds by the United Nations. He is also working on cleaning the Tsavo National Park which faces challenges from roadside litter by passengers travelling on the Nairobi -Mombasa highway.

This politician mentioned that he is working with young children so that they could be future ambassadors championing for conservation. The impact of his project has been felt. The children have been inspired and gone back to talk to their parents. “Teach a child in ways you would them to go and they will not depart from it”.

Kenyan Aaron said that: “he is 1st RSG recipient working on small carnivals. He used to wonder why the small carnivals were killed by people from his home area. However, when he met Dr. Ferguson from Mpala Research Center in Kenya and shared his idea with him. Dr. Ferguson advised him to develop a proposal and submit it to The Rufford Foundation. He won his grant and is now leaving his dream of researching on conserving the Mau Forest so that we do not lose the habitat for the small carnival in Mau Forest.

Emmanuel Bugingo, a 1st RSG recipient from Rwanda, said that “the first time he applied for a RSG he was not successful. Later, he analysed his proposal and found the gaps. He is working with marginalized women on forest conservation. The women are making mats for sale as a source of income. The group has produced the first mat that was sold in the USA.

Moses Kugonza, a 1st RSG recipient from Kibale Forest, Uganda, spoke of how the RSG programme has helped him as a local person with only an A level carry out his project of coexistence with wildlife in Kibale area. He aims to change the people‟s attitude towards the park. When he started the project, the people living around the forest wanted the park abolished because of crop raiding. His project developed trenches to reduce crop raiding by elephants, and also encouraged people to grow garlic as a source of income for improved livelihoods. The project has bought hives for the locals for bee keeping. The people are happy and are requesting for more hives.

We went to the next session when the guests arrived. Every participant was amazed by how the venue was decorated. This was one of the most exciting sessions where individual participants were interacting, taking individual and group photos, and taking coffee and snacks as the cultural dancers entertaining them.

After the entertainments, Pr. Shadrak Kaganda, the invited pro-conservation pastor and motivational speaker, took the podium. With such a great sense of humour, Pr. Shadrak taught the participants on the need for environment conservation giving examples from the bible on conservation.

The bible clearly teaches that we must take care of everything that God has given us, Shadrak said. “When you take good care of nature, the nature also take good care of you”, he further said. Some people would like to have the beautiful weather we have in Uganda. To whom more is given, more is expected. The pastor thanked the Grants Director of The Rufford Foundation, Mr. Josh Cole for helping young people like Karenzi Alphonse implement projects for conservation in Africa. He stated that implementing 4305 projects in 157 countries is no mean business. It is better to give what we have than to be given. He encouraged the participants to learn to invest in themselves and improve their skills in research.

The next Speaker Mr. Erasmus Mugerwa, a Lecturer from the Makerere University, took the podium. Mr. Erasmus talked to the participants about mentorship. He thanked Alphonse and his team for the good work they are doing for conservation through his organization SAYO. He thanked Mr. Josh Cole for supporting small projects that are making great impact in Africa and other parts of the world. The Prof said that “the future of our nations lies in conserving our environment”. He asked participants to document their work through project reports, periodicals, and publications. He encouraged the participants to maintain integrity while undertaking their projects.

Group discussions and presentations chaired by Mr. Iregi Mwenja - The participants were divided into four groups of at least ten persons. The themes for each group were generated: Group1- Sustainable energy, Group 2- Community conservation, Group 3- Research and conservation and Group 4- Climate change.

Members of the groups were asked to talk about their projects to the other members. The group leader managed well the time given and each member was given a chance to share his project experience. The group members held their discussions and prepared PowerPoint and flip chart presentations. The groups also selected the best projects to be presented in the afternoon.

Lunch: during lunch time, participants were networking and entertained by the cultural dancers. They had a good African buffet many claimed.

Group presentations - In the afternoon, the four groups presented their work. Group representatives did the presentations.

Group 1: worked on conservation enterprise. How communities are encouraged to engage in other income generating activities like bee keeping avoiding forest destruction. Constructing energy saving stoves and planting trees.

Group 2: talked about human wildlife conflict with a case study of the Rufford project around Kibale forest and what this project is doing to help solve this problem. One of the strategies that is being developed is the need to grow tea as buffer crops to reduce crop raiding. They mentioned how garlic is grown as a source of livelihood for the community members.

Group 3: conservation education. For this group, they presented the project on training primary school children on conservation issues. The project has had its challenges but the recipient encouraged participants to try and incorporate politicians to their work.

Group 4: presented the various projects in one, however, the main project of focus was on sustainable collaborative management. The project explained how it has grown over the years through the Rufford Small Grants programme. The project is now in the completion grant stage. The project has managed to develop a forest management plan which is due for signing by the different stakeholders involved.

Cocktail dinner party - The first day of the conference ended with a beautiful evening of cocktail dinner and socializing.

Day Two: Friday, 19th January

The day began with the registration of participants and then recap by Dr. Kagambe. He used the netball analogy to have the participants engaged. A ball was thrown around and the person it landed on was asked to mention one thing they learnt from the first day and what they liked most. The participants mentioned different topics from networking, the social gathering at cocktail to learning from the group discussion on their colleague’s projects, how they handled the challenges they faced during their projects.

After this, Dr. Margaret Owuor read the report of day 1. Focusing on the main key things captured in day 1 as reported above. Then we had the four voted presenters making their presentation again so that they could be reviewed. The main presenters were;

Project 1: Human wildlife conflict by Moses Kugonza-Kibale Forest
Project 2: Conservation and climate change by Gashumba Damascen.
Project 3: Conservation through participatory learning by Cosmas Nzilili
Project 4: Sustainable collaborative forest management by Raymond Katebaka

The four presentations were reviewed by 6 selected members of reviewing committee to choose the two best presenters. The 6 reviewers were: Dr Bagambe Steven, Richard Moses, Dr. Tamie Jovanelly, Sr. Namutebi Estellina, Rukundo Charles and Zeph Miajeni.

We went for the next exciting session of handing over certificates to all participants and awards to the two best presenters. This session took place outdoor as participants taking morning tea and bites at the showers of Lake Victoria. Many participants expressed their falling in love with the venue and how it was decorated. We had the certificates presented to every participant and the winners were announced and presents given in a beach front activity by Mr. Josh Cole.

 The Fourth Best Presenter was:
Mr. Gashumba Damascene, the recipient of the 1st RSG from Rwanda.

 The Third Best Presenter was:
Mr. Moses Katugonza, the recipient of the 1st RSG from Uganda.

 The Second Best Presenter was:
Mr. Cosmas Nzilili, the recipient of the 1st RSG from Kenya.

 The Best Presenter was:
Mr. Raymond Katebaka, the recipient of a Rufford Completion Grant from Uganda.

This session was ended by cutting a cake, the most exciting moment of the whole conference!

After cutting and eating the cake, we had a session on the way forward: this was chaired by Mr Zeph Migeni. The key issues raised and recommendation are included in the conference proceedings section below. The closing remarks were given by the Guest of Honour Mr. Paul Mafabi, the Director of Environmental Affairs in the Ministry of Water and Environment, who represented the Minister of Water and Environment who couldn’t make it due to an urgent emergency.

“The only thing I know about The Rufford Foundation is that I made a grant application and I failed” Mr. Paul said. He further said he has something to learn from the RSG recipients for the fact that they applied and succeeded. He encouraged the recipients to make more effort especially in the area of documenting the lessons. Document not only the success but also the failure as other people doing similar work will learn from your failure, improve their work and prevent repeating the same mistakes. He thanked the organizers of the conference especially Mr. Josh Cole the Grants Director of The Rufford Foundation. He, as the director of environmental affairs, also promised to continue collaborating and wherever possible providing technical support to the RSG recipients. Mr. Paul also shared and interacted with participants during lunch before he left!

Day Three: Saturday, 20th January

On the third day, thirty participants attended the workshop conducted by the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) for the RSG recipients. These thirty participants were selected and trained by the trainers from the ATBC.

This conference aimed at improving the communication and data management skills of the African researchers. All the workshop presentations are attached on this report. Thanks to the ATBC trainers who accepted us to share their presentations on the Rufford website.


Through experience sharing, group discussions and presentations, the participants expressed their gratitude toward The Rufford Foundation due to such a great impact the Rufford Small Grants programme has made towards conserving the local and regional nature, building the capacity of local communities especially youth and strengthening their careers as conservationists. They shared also the challenges they face and made recommendations to especially The Rufford Foundation. 100% of the participants appreciated how the conference was organized and The Rufford Foundation to bring them together.

The Impact of the RSGs

1. Rufford funding helped develop approaches to solve local conservation problems and build the capacity of local community, especially the vulnerable people groups: Different participants discussed about how Rufford support has enabled them to develop approaches to solve their local problems. For instance Moses Kugonza, a recipient of the1st RSG from Uganda, managed to eradicate the problem of human wildlife conflict in Kibale forest by developing trenches to reduce crop raiding by elephants, and also encouraging people to grow garlic and tea plantations around the forest as a source of income for improved livelihoods. The project has bought hives for the locals for bee keeping. The people are happy and are requesting for more hives.

Gashumba Damascene, a recipient of the 1st RSG from Rwanda, and majority of participants shared how Rufford funding helped them to train and engage local leaders in conservation, give practical skills to local communities and engage them in income generating conservation activities like bees-keeping, making and selling energy saving stoves and trees planting.

2. Rufford funding helped train future conservationists: For instance Cosmas Nzilili, a recipient of the 1st RSG grant, discussed that through Rufford support he has managed to train many primary students on conservation issues in Kenya and transform them into the promising future conservationists of Kenya.

Another example of how Rufford funding helped train future generation of conservationists is Alphonse Karenzi’s four RSG projects that trained 100s of primary and secondary students and indigenous young people in Gisagara District, in Rwanda. These trained young people proved that they are not only future but also present conservationists by designing and implementing local forest conservation action plans, playing a big role in disseminating the improved cook stoves and other best practices for conservation and sharing the knowledge with peers in schools and with their parents at home.

3. Rufford funding has helped support work on species and ecosystems that are traditionally difficult to fundraise for: The participants frequently thanked the Rufford Foundation for funding the important works that majority of other donors don’t fund. For instance; Mr. Raymond Katebaka, a recipient of all five RSG's from Uganda, expressed his gratitude to The Rufford Foundation for supporting his research project of understanding the impact of the forest fragmentation on forest hornbills in central Uganda in 2009-2010. “I couldn’t get any other funding, apart from The Rufford Foundation, to help conserve these hornbills” Raymond said.

4. Rufford support has enabled early career conservationists achieve their goals and expand their projects/ impact: The majority shared their experience and gratitude towards The Rufford Foundation for the role that RSG funding has played in making them the renowned conservationist they are now. For instance, Alphonse Karenzi shared that the 1st RSG funding found him struggling to form a team and helped him establish his dream organization Sustaining Africa Youth Organization (SAYO) where he now has empowered dozens of young co-workers in Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda”. Rufford found him with just a stove design but now he has disseminated more than 3000 fuelwood saving stoves in poor families in remote area. Also Mr. Raymond Katebaka presented how the Rufford funding helped his project that focuses on sustainable collaborative management greatly grow over the years. He says: through the RSG programme we have now managed to develop a forest management plan for the central Uganda.

Challenges faced

Below are some of the common challenges that the RSG recipients continue facing as they discussed:

1. The scale of research is too large compared to the size of the available grants;
2. Obtaining research permits from officials is difficulty;
3. Poor means of transport
4. Weather changes.
5. Lack of equipments

Recommendations made and issues raised:

1. Some participants requested that if possible the RSG management team may give feedback regarding the reasons of their RSG applications rejection.
2. Participants requested The Rufford Foundation to visit their projects.
3. Some proved that first time grantees need orientation on how to write reports and managing the provided grants.
4. Participants asked whether they should have conference committees and for planning purposes develop conference objectives.
5. Some requested for training components i.e. research designs, writing publications should be incorporated in future conferences.
6. Participants asked if they could have in-country groups.
7. Some asked how the next conference should look like and where it is going to take place from.
8. The participants recommended for the increment of the grant size because some claimed that they fall short of finances during the course of their project activities.
9. Some participants emphasised the importance of collaboration between people with similar projects.
10. The government policies should be adjusted to favour the projects.


Sienna Beach Hotel, Entebbe
0° 2' 57.5412" N, 32° 27' 44.0316" E
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Uganda Conference 20184.34 MB