Kibale National Park is located in rural Uganda, where economic and educational opportunities are still quite limited. Because we work closely with the local community that makes up our field staff, and because community development is an essential component of forest and wildlife conservation, we feel it is essential to contribute to the development of communities around Kibale. In collaboration with the Kibale Chimpanzee Project and the Jane Goodall Institute of Uganda, The Kasiisi Project was established by Elizabeth Ross in 1997 to enhance the educational opportunities of local schoolchildren.
Primary education is universally available to Ugandan children. However, schools in rural areas are overcrowded and understaffed. Children lack basic needs such as uniforms, school supplies, nutritional food, and hygenic supplies. Schools often lack clean water, latrines, electricity, and sometimes even buildings. Few children, especially girls, are able to afford secondary school. The Kasiisi Project raises funds and delivers materials to support a range of school needs: constructing classrooms, dorms, libraries, and staff housing, providing children with uniforms, supplies and free lunches, funding literacy, computer, and teacher training, and offering secondary school scholarships.
The Kasiisi Project is also a founding member of the Kibale Forest Coalition for Conservation Education, a collaborative involving 16 organizations all working to conserve the national park. The Kasiisi Project sponsors field trips for students and teachers to visit Kibale and other area parks to learn about local wildlife. It also works with school Wildlife Clubs to organize fun, hands-on, extra-curricular activities that educate children about the environment. Students have monitored local water quality, started school gardens, and learned about sustainable agriculture methods.
Conservation education programs often have a chimpanzee focus. Students learn about chimpanzees through lectures, films, art, theater, and other activities. Since 2010, an annual student debate competition on chimpanzee conservation has been held. Students also meet with local leaders in chimpanzee conservation, such as park wardens and snare patrol rangers. Through these experiences we hope to foster a commitment to chimpanzee conservation in the next generation.