NatureUganda Executive Director Wins Top Conservation Award
Award recognizes his longstanding contribution to conservation efforts in Uganda
By Brian Abong and Lewis Kihumba
Achilles Byaruhanga, NatureUganda’s (BirdLife Partner) Executive Director has been honoured with the 2022 Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa, at the Tusk Conservation Awards. Achilles was feted with the lifetime achievement award, given to individuals for outstanding dedication, and exceptional contribution to conservation on 1st November 2022. Now in its 10th year, the Tusk Conservation Awards recognise dedicated, forward-thinking individuals with inspirational stories and incredible impact across the continent.
Achille’s love for nature, growing up as a young boy in southwest Uganda in the 1970s’, as he looked after livestock, prior to joining school. He was fascinated by the beauty and diversity of nature and could identify all birds, and most plants and insects in the local language at an early age.
“I soon realized that some birds and insects were common than others, while some plants were edible, others were not. It was this curiosity and passion for nature that defined what I wanted to do in life”, reflects Achilles. This passion has driven Achilles throughout his career in 1994, he joined NatureUganda, marking the start of his 28-year conservation journey.
In 2010, Achilles was instrumental in leading a campaign aimed at stopping the allocation of Mabira, one of Uganda’s largest remaining rainforests, and home to many endangered species to investors for sugarcane farming. He was instrumental in the identification and conservation of 34 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), and supporting government to designate 12 out of 14 Ramsar sites covering over 500,000 ha while supporting communities to derive livelihood benefits, Achilles is also actively involved in capacity building of young people to take on the conservation mantle. An avid birder, he has been at the forefront of promoting birds as a tourism product in Uganda.
“I am proud that we promote birds and that they are one of the main attractions to the country. Tourism is employing and delivering livelihoods for many Ugandans, providing livelihoods for local people – the custodians of nature”, he says.
Creating buy-in from local communities has always been a key approach to his conservation work. As Executive Director of NatureUganda, he has been successful in gaining support from local communities to advance conservation efforts. In 1994, NatureUganda had 14 members today, the organization is Uganda’s biggest membership organisation, with more than 3,500 members and robust programmes on awareness, education, research and monitoring.
“The award is not for me alone, but I share it with an amazing team at NatureUganda and the BirdLife family, through our combined effort and hardwork we are able to achieve so much”, he adds.
“While nature conservation in Africa continues to be faced by a myriad of challenges, the role of local communities in advancing conservation efforts cannot be understated. This well-deserved award is proof that conservation works, and the BirdLife Partnership is proud of Achilles’ and NatureUganda’s recognition”, notes Dr Kariuki Ndang’ang’a, Regional Director for Africa, BirdLife International.
To sum up, Achilles emphasizes the need for quick action to address destruction of nature and devastation caused by climate change. “We need to act and act now to halt and or reverse the trends to save nature and ourselves. Our legacy is to bequeath the next generation a natural world that meets their needs and the needs of the generations to come”, he concludes.