School of Business to promote birdwatching

 By Frank Obonyo

Tourism Birding? Yes. And Uganda is ripe for it as the country has over 1,000 species of birds.

 When you grow up around these feathered, flying and strutting creatures, you have a mild interest for what the rest of the world views with intensity. Birdwatching Tourism. It is a growing market niche.  Americans and Europeans are increasingly interested in birdwatching.

Wikipedia puts the population of Uganda’s bird species at 1,066. One of them is the Uganda Crane, which is the national bird of Uganda. Some of these birds are regularly found among people, in the bush and wildlife sanctuaries.

However, Uganda’s tourism focus is mainly based on distinct geographic areas linked to national parks, wildlife reserves, forests reserves or specific attractions, and activities such as white water rafting at the source of the Nile. This is why the Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Business and Administration is centering on improving this money-spinning sector, with a specific purpose of training young people who will appreciate and work in this field of tourism.

Last year, through the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), UCU School of Business and Administration won a grant worth 238 million Uganda Shillings to equip 30 students, majorly from Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality Management, with skills in Birding Tourism.

The Dean of the School, Dr. Martin Lwanga, said this is an area that has not been fully promoted in Uganda. He pointed out that for Uganda, birds could be an attraction as the gorilla is for Rwanda.

He said they have partnered with PFSU to equip 30 young people to work as professionals in  birding tourism and make them ambassadors of this sector.

At the end of the short certificate course, students will be able to learn the economic potential of the birding industry, important bird areas of Uganda, professional bird guiding as a career, marketing bird watching locally and globally, establishing and running a birding tour company, conservation and protection of bird habitats.

All the six course units will be taught in two months, and then trainees will head for practical sessions in April. The students will also be taught by various guest speakers from industry players and the same partners will provide a number of equipment. The potential networks include: Uganda Tourism Association, Uganda Birders Association, Nature Uganda, Wild Life Authority and the National Council for Higher Education.

The School has trainers of trainees and classes will be held online, only in the evenings to enable students to concentrate on their normal programs and adhere to guidelines of the pandemic.

“After the training, we shall carryout field tours because birdwatching is a practical adventure and develop materials which we shall integrate with our Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality Management curriculum,” said Dr. Lwanga.

The Admissions Office will handle recruitment process of the learners into the program, and classes run from February to April, 2021. However, the project’s lifespan is from November 2020- June 2021.

This project will enhance research, contribute revenue to the University and offer opportunity to initiate a new product with potential to exploit a neglected niche market.

For Uganda, this could be one of the reasons we need birds, far more than they need us.

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