The Rafiki Memorial Wildlife Conservation Initiative (“Rafiki”) is a Ugandan organization based in Buhoma, at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda.
Rafiki works closely together with the USA-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization Sahaya International (www.sahaya.org), which also serves as its fiscal agent to accept tax-deductible donations in the USA towards Rafiki’s programs.
Rafiki aims to transform the indigenous communities with sustainable, conservation-based income, protect critical wildlife habitats and conserve the mountain gorilla populations.
Rafiki is the brainchild of artist-activist Mushamba Moses, who grew up in a community that relied on poaching to survive. As he became an adult, he realized the value of conservation and decided to use art as a tool to create change. Scroll further to read his story.
In 2020, Mushamba met a tourist, Danielle, who happened to be a board member of the USA-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization Sahaya International. Mushamba connected online with the founder of Sahaya, Dr. Koen Van Rompay, and the friendship clicked immediately. They decided to join hands in this effort. To have the legal structure, Mushamba registered a local organization, and dedicated it to the gorilla Rafiki, the silverback who was slain by poachers in June 2020 (click here to learn more about the story behind this). Sahaya International decided to help the Rafiki organization by being a fiscal sponsor to channel donations from the USA to Rafiki.
Here is Mushamba’s story:
My name is Mushamba Moses born in June 1991 at the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable national park.
The situation around the game park was very worse. The only benefit was eating free bush meat. My father had a local brew bar where poachers would come after their hunts to sell bush meat. Because of this background, my first childhood friends were basically poachers as they could give me free bush meat and buy me sweets.
This made me grow up with my initial dream to become a poacher because it was the most easiest way to make a success . Nothing did I know that this had many negative effects, both to the globe and to my local community.
When I joined school I got to know how my area was a big deal as it had a most significant wildlife including the then critically endangered mountain gorillas,
It’s from this time that I started feeling the love for my community and I felt doing a change that my community deserved.
When I finished my advanced level, among my options in studying many courses, I opted for a diploma in art and design because I felt using the language of art to create an impact through creating a real illusion of what we own,
With my experience in craft making, wood curving, painting, drawing, pottery and cultural music, I felt sharing it with my community members to benefit from the local tourism market that is currently utilised by people from other parts of the country and who are doing their shopping mostly from the capital Kampala. My dream is that it will improve their livelihoods, hence they start to see themselves lucky neighboring the UNESCO heritage site,other than seeing it as a curse.
Thank you in advance for any support you can provide.
A sustainable community where people can have productive lives and live in harmony and respect with nature and wildlife, with total abolishment of poaching.
Our objectives: Educate – Empower – Conserve
- To educate the local communities about the importance of the country’s wildlife, by creating awareness campaigns against vices like poaching on all major media platform, including radio, television, music and drama shows.
- To create community participation in domestic tourism activities to assure that they receive the benefits from the tourism, to promote their rights and responsibilities, provide them with sustainable livelihood, and instill in them a sense of belonging in their beloved country, Uganda.
- To create awareness for the local community of epidemic diseases (such as cholera, dysentery and others).
- To promote human rights, including the right to girl child education. Aids for charity Uganda, will help educate community members about the importance of educating girl children and why they should be given the opportunity to go to school. In addition to empowering girls and women, this will also reduce the number of early marriage and child pregnancies.
- To provide skill-training to people in the community, especially the youth, to make them independent and self-sustaining. Examples are art, farming, carpentry, brick laying, and soap making. With these skills, they will engage into commercial business and therefore improve their way of life.
- To provide the youth, orphans and children with disabilities with basic equipment like sewing machines and other infrastructure to start a job and support them to become organized in community-based working units to affectively run and manage their business.
- To undertake any other work that promotes general welfare of the people by meeting their most urgent needs. This includes medical assistance to people suffering from diseases like HIV/AIDS and cancer.
- To mobilize resources to assist orphans and other vulnerable children to give them a proper education and a productive life in society. Without interventions, these children and youth are prone to waste their time and engage in improper behavior.
- To protect the disadvantaged, whether it is an individual or a community section, from any form of exploitation and discrimination. This will be done through empowering and guiding the disadvantaged and improving their economic status by training them on income-generating activities (e.g., farming).
Our officers, director, executive members and advisors:
(more names to be added soon)
| Mushamba Moses: |
President and Founding Member
|Mushamba Moses is a multi-talented artist, including painting, sculpting and music. Helping people and promoting nature conservation are in his heart. To read his story, click here|
|Akankwasa Shivan: Treasurer and Founding Member||Akankwasa has a certificate in midwifery.|
|Nuwamanya Promise: Secretary||Nuwamanya is professional in tourism and hotel management. In addition to being our secretary, she is the gallery attendant of the Rafiki art center|
|Atuheire Isaac: Director and Founding Member||Atuheire has a diploma in art and design, but is specialized in wood making.|
|Koen Van Rompay: Advisor and Founding Member||Dr. Koen Van Rompay (DVM, PhD) grew up in Belgium. His passion for animals led him to become a veterinary doctor at the University of Ghent (Belgium). In 1989, he moved to the USA to pursue a PhD at the University of California, Davis (UCD), where he has been doing infectious disease research, iincluding HIV and Zika virus. In 1997, he traveled to a conference in India, which changed his life and led to the start of the USA-based volunteer-run 501(c)3 nonprofit organization Sahaya International ( www.sahaya.org). In 2020, he met Mushamba and decided to help with starting Rafiki.|
|Moses Perezi: Executive member||Moses is the founder of the Bwindi Plus School in Buhoma, which serves many underprivileged children.|
|Byarugaba Robert: Executive member||Robert is the founder of the Bwindi Buhoma United Reformed Poachers Initiative (BBURPI)|
|Tumwebaze Calvin: Executive member||Calvin is a founder of Bwindi Batwa Farms|
|Tweheyo Robert: Executive Member||Tweheyo Robert born was born in 1992, and holds a Bachelor's degree in library and information science of Makerere university. When he was about 5 years, he started seeing the Batwa people who used to come home carrying bush meat and wild homey to exchange for local foods and some old equipments like hoes and pangas to make bow and arrows to use in hunting. When the Batwa were completely removed from the forest, they started to suffer as they were not used to farming. Hence they struggled to find food. They started working in farms of the Bakiiga (another tribe in Bwindi) for a plate of food or they get uncooked bananas and yams to go cook themselves. At times they could be given a little money after digging for like a month's. My love for the Batwa people started at an early age as I used to carry even some bananas and yams from home to give to the Batwa people.
After my graduation in 2018, I wanted to work with the Batwa communities in Bwindi and realized that the Batwa can do some farming of their own to get a livelihood and teach them conservation, to forget hunting and looking for honey in the forest. During the first COVID-19 lockdown, I decided to have them involved in growing vegetables and they did it perfectly. It is when I met Mr. Calvin Tumwebaze whose father owns a big part of land and sat to discuss how we can use of part of his father's land for farming. He was given about 3 acres to use for some time. We started and registered with the government a Community-Based Organization, called Bwindi Batwa farm , to carry out the farming activities, with the hope to grow more crops and raise farm animals like pigs and goat.
|Rutaro Onesmus: Executive Member||Rutaro Onesmus is one of the founders of the Bwindi local artists association|