Working towards improving the conservation status of Musambwa islands is expected to greatly enhance the conservation status of the islands, and contribute to improving local people's perceptions of the importance of the islands in their health state. The conservation could be improved by listing the site as Ramsar site and engage the community through the Ramsar wise use principle, a phenomena that encourages sustainable use of wetland resources to foster biodiversity conservation and livelihood improvement together. This in effect would improve the breeding status of birds (the main biodiversity importance of the islands).
Enhancing local community capacity to fish and access markets is extremely critical for ensuring increased income and sustainable livelihood benefits to the local community. This is a real foundation and a necessity for reducing poverty. There is need for increased capacity of SSGs in community mobilization and participate in taking decisions regarding socio-economic development that affect the community day-today living. The SSGs need to be institutionalized and registered with local governments and be empowered to demand their rights from government such as infrastructure development or accessibility (roads) and accessibility to health and sanitation facilities. NatureUganda established a sanitation facility at the Islands but other landing sites do not have. Infestation of disease such as bilharzias is unabated, in addition to malaria and HIV/Aids. The combination of these diseases is devastating resulting in a poor productivity of the community. There is need for sustained campaign against such diseases as HIV and malaria.
Regulating the population increase at Musambwa islands as well as improvement in environmental health conditions especially through the provision of sanitation and medical care to the population will be a big leap in the right direction of reducing pressure on the habitat and the resources therein and in particular resulting in increased breeding area of the bird species at the islands. Reduction in numbers of people at the islands means reduced disturbance on the habitat vegetation cover hence more secure breeding grounds for birds.
Again, the local people at both the islands and the fish landing sites located in the mainland require wood for fuel and shelter construction. Yet there is less wood and vegetation resources on the islands since the islands are generally rocky. Despite this, the wood and vegetation resources have become the only source of materials for shelter construction and fish smoking for the fishermen. This coupled with inadequate technical knowledge of community members in habitat management and restoration has resulted into vegetation degradation thus leading to loss of cover for breeding birds, increased predation and post harvest losses.
At the moment, access to and settlement at the islands is largely free and adhoc. The Musambwa islands bye-law that was developed attempted to address this issue but does not provide for explicit enforcement of the provision. The bye-law was approved by the local government but is yet to be gazetted nationally and thus enforcement of its provisions. As a result, there is considerable inadequacy in the bye-law that was developed and will require further strengthening. The result is excessive number of people accessing and / or settling at the islands resulting into increased pressure on the habitat.
A three prolonged approach needs to be employed:
1) improve the transport facilities (good boats) that can travel back and forth from fishing to the mainland.
2) provide training and facilities such as drying kilns for handling fish so that fishermen stay short periods of time at the islands i.e. fish dries better and quickly. A spin-off for this activity would be high quality fish that would attract higher income.
3) Establish other innovative income generating activities to diversity income of the local communities such as vegetable growing and eco-tourism. Sango bay area is being promoted at the national level as a tourist destination and provides an alternative income generating opportunity.
In effect, the principle focus of the proposed project is natural resources management, local community/ SSGs livelihoods and local community institutional capacity building as well as improvement of the general environmental health and sanitation conditions in order to stimulate meaningful and balanced conservation and income generating initiatives. The goal is to ensure that Musambwa islands environment and natural resources are better managed for the benefit of biodiversity and the people.