Somebody once defined tomorrow as a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored but not for the 30 year old Kazibwe Yasin a.k.a Mr. Natureman, founder Uganda Reptiles Village born to Suleiman Semugonga and Beatrice Nakanajwi of Kajjansi.
RedPepper’s Joel Jaafa talked to Kazibwe attended Kawoto primary school and Kagulwe SS Mpigi for “O” & “A” level. He narrated to us his journey from dreaming the dream to walking the dream.
“As a young man in 1998, I worked for a certain gentleman who was exporting snakes to Europe for sale, however I got a study leave for Tanzania and was sponsored by the company where I met a snake expert Jackson Erikson.”
He took me to Zimbabwe and lectured me on everything about snakes. Around 2000, I came back to Uganda and had a brilliant idea to share with my former boss. I suggested that we stop selling these snakes to Europe but save more by having them breed locally and return most to the swamp where we used to trap them as a way of avoiding rare species extinction and balancing the eco-system.
However, Kazibwe’s boss was not impressed and rubbished him off as a young man full of youthful ideas since he was 18 years old by then.
The birth of Uganda Reptiles Village
“Given my superior training, I was the manager heading over 50 people but had no choice but to resign, I went back to the streets and thought of a project to save Ugandan reptiles from danger by breeding them back to the wilderness.
My idea was to replace those taken to Europe so that reptiles don’t become history like dinosaurs. Through this project, everybody could help reptiles in their area besides Uganda Wildlife Authority, after all wildlife is all our responsibility as part of nature.
To see this dream come true, I registered Uganda Reptiles Village in 2003 as a community based organization after getting a loan that I used to purchase 3 acres of land to set up the facility, more so I went a step further by registering the place as a trustee to avoid diversion of funds so that the dream can live on even beyond me,” says Kazibwe.
Construction of River Kazibwe
In the short time so far, Kazibwe has been able to discover and breed over 48 snake species that include Gibits gabonza, forest cobras, mambas, tweed snakes, byogas, vine snakes and green tree snakes among others. The man who says his life is about water and reptiles is not about to stop, a former boat captain with Wild frontiers, Kazibwe has constructed an artificial river stream at Uganda reptile village called River Kazibwe about 3km where people can come for sport fishing, pedal cruising, wet land walk, canoe cruising, kayaking and bird watching in the swamp.
At the moment River Kazibwe has over 1.5 million fish that include lung fish, tilapia, silver fish and carpenter all awaiting Ugandans to come and fish. Kazibwe has put up an interesting offer where whoever fishes 3 takes 1 home for free.
At the facility, an hour’s fishing goes for Shs.20,000, pedal cruising 2000, the wetland walk is Shs.2000 while bird watching is free.
The bird sanctuary
A man destined to shoot two birds using one stone, Kazibwe has also set up a bird sanctuary at Uganda
Reptiles Village, “I have created a natural habitat for them on an island where I have planted foods like sorghum, rice and millet to attract more birds.
Not only will they have cereals to feed on but there are plenty of insects and worms around the swamp and island for them to enjoy.” Says Kazibwe. His natural bird sanctuary has been able to attract about37 species of birds that include pelicans, water ducks, king fishers, cormorants, crested cranes and weaver birds among others.
Because nature is part of him, Kazibwe is reaping big from a bee rearing project that is helping the community especially the youth at the same time. He says the bee project can help the youth sustain themselves without having to spend any penny.
On Kazibwe’s 3 acre estate that houses reptiles, fish and birds, there are also 12 bee hives that are acting as demonstration hives for interested people; he says each bee hive can produce 20 litres per year with costs Shs 700,000 besides an already available market. Kazibwe says that soon, his 12 bee hives will bring him 240 litres of honey annually thus estimates to reap revenue in the range of Shs,
168,000,000. He however says that he hopes to pass onto the bee hive project to fellow youth before embarking on large scale honey production.
In what started as a hobby, Kazibwe is proud of some accomplishments because people’s attitudes towards reptiles have changed. Back then people thought that having snakes was sorcery and practicing witch craft but today a lot of people know and appreciate reptiles such as snakes like other animals. Kazibwe has also met true life friends who feel, care and respond immediately if he needs help. “I have gone abroad without any expenditure for example I spent two weeks in Sweden teaching them about reptiles in Uganda, and one day if all goes well I hope to become Uganda’s self-appointed Good Will Reptile Ambassador to the rest of the world publicizing the pearl’s beauty,” ays Kazibwe.
In being a nature lover, Kazibwe has also met a lot of big and influential people in the world, “I have met the Kabaka 3 times, the President of Uganda and many high ranking dignitaries. I also met and
drove Billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates during my days as a boat captain when he visited Uganda in 2004 as well as American state governors touring Uganda.”
Advice to the youth
To keep the place up to date, given the increasing numbers of visitors, Kazibwe has constructed a 6-roomed lodge for people that visit the facility and want to sleep over; he also has tents in place for people who desire camping and as a last word advises the youth in Uganda to involve themselves in nature conservation and tourism.
He asks. “Why can’t someone keep and rear butterflies, rats, rabbits or bees. A rat goes for shs.30, 000, the youth should stop judging jobs and get their hands dirty with hard work and sweat if they are to survive poverty.”
In what started as an idea to save reptiles, Kazibwe has opened a tourism and study reptile centre that has bred and taken back 187 snakes to their natural habitat, constructed an artificial 3km river stream that allows sailing with over 1.5 million fish for sport fishing, a bird sanctuary with over 37 species for bird watching and an island for nature lovers to do a wet land walk as well as a bee hive honey harvesting project, so instead of dreaming about tomorrow the mystical land, how about you started today?