False promise or false premise? Using tourism revenue sharing to promote conservation and poverty reduction in Uganda
Tumusiime, David Mwesigye
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Tourism and the sharing of the associated revenues with local people have been increasingly fronted as key instruments for maintaining protected areas (PAs) globally. This paper focuses on a tourism revenue sharing scheme employed in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, involving rural farmers. We find that the scheme faces difficulties in integrating with the existing local historical, socio-economic, and institutional landscapes. Similar experiences from other cases suggest that these challenges are generic, and relate to lack of real local participation; an insignificant scale of economic returns to local people relative to costs; inept institutions in charge of planning, managing and evaluation efforts; and an institutional complexity that constrains most activities. We conclude that although tourism revenue sharing is an appealing concept, and its oft-quoted logic of promoting conservation and rural development is difficult to ignore, it is challenging to plan and implement in competent ways. We do not suggest abandoning tourism revenue sharing, but rather believe that a more concerted effort to overcome the mechanism’s economic and institutional shortcomings, as identified in this paper, may be more appropriate. The overall findings indicate that problems are not with tourism revenue sharing as an ambition, but with the difficulties encountered in putting it into practice.