KAFRED was founded in 1992, in order to conserve areas of rich biodiversity outside nationally protected areas, wetlands in particular, and to benefit communities from tourism businesses in the area, mainly Kibale National Park (KNP). An American Peace Corps Volunteer, Mark Noonan of Massachusetts, together with 6 community members (founders) steered the formation of this Community Based Organization (CBO). Membership has grown to 150 and includes other groups, e.g. Bigodi Woman’s Group (BWG) with 40 members, the Kiyoima Women’s Group with 30 members, and the Enyange Dramactors singing and acting group.
KAFRED’s founding members overwhelmingly agreed on the need to conserve Magombe Swamp, which is today known as Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary. The wetland is a stretch of about 8 km long and 1/3 km wide, attached to KNP at both ends. It acts as a corridor for animals from the southern to the northern parts of the KNP. A large trench that runs through the middle of the wetland is an old hippopotamus trail from the 1960s. Because of the wetland’s rich biodiversity, it was resolved that the tourism could bring benefits to the community and hence encourage conservation of this important natural resource.
In 2002, the North Carolina Zoo in the USA began an extensive exchange program with KAFRED, through the zoo’s UNITE for the Environment (UNITE) initiative. Conservation specialists and educators from North Carolina have continued to work with the Bigodi community and surrounding communities since then. Administrator and educator exchange visits have gone both ways between Africa and the US. In early 2009, UNITE sponsored its first full-time, on-site representative, Jamilyn Cole, who helped advance conservation practices through education in primary schools including Bigodi, Busabura, Busiriba, Kiyoima, Kyakagunga, Rugonjo, Kinoni K., Bunoga, Bigodi Women’s, Rwengobe and Bigodi Secondary school. The current on-site representative, Michelle Slavin, began living and working in Bigodi in July 2009.
KAFRED is affiliated with the Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA) with site at http://www.ucota.or.ug/.