One man’s effort to save Busoga heritage

Jinja, Uganda – In Uganda, tourism is usually associated with people from Europe, North America and Asia who come to see the diversity that the country has to offer. This however has had a negative impact on the tourism sector, because when the numbers of foreign tourists dwindle the industry suffers.

The Government has been using different platforms and campaigns to lure locals to embrace the idea of domestic tourism. However it remains a struggle.

Uganda like many African countries is endowed with diverse cultures, natural features and a rich history which is fast diminishing as modernization takes big bites into our heritage.

Low numbers of local tourists and the need to inform the world about the rich history of Uganda, especially the people in Busoga in Eastern Uganda convinced Alexander Mbiro to set up the Jinja Museum.  In the 1960s and early 1970s Jina was known across the region as Uganda’s industrial hub before falling onto hard times.

According to Mbiro, the Managing Director of Jinja Museum, the facility aims to preserve the history of Busoga and that of Uganda at large.

Mbiro, in an interview with East African  Business Week, said the young generation is lacking  a sense of historical pride as far as culture, science and technology is concerned.

“Therefore, there is need to preserve our past experiences and educate the present and forthcoming generations,” Mbiro said.

Because there is no museum in the vast Busoga region, Mbiro saw an opportunity to tap into this vacuum.

Jinja Museum is located at Kakindu Community Centre, 300 metres from the famous Source of the Nile site, on your way to Jinja town centre.

A visit to the museum will present you with an opportunity to see artifacts that were used hundreds of years ago as the Uganda evolved  into modernity.

The artifacts include music and entertainment, communication, farming, hunting, security, kitchen ware and zoological section. Others are cultural costumes, an art gallery section and old bank notes.

Mbiro said the museum is targeting young people, especially teenagers, who might not have seen these artifacts when they were being used.

He said the museum also gives foreign visitors a chance to see how Africans lived their life in past centuries.

A graduate of zoology from Makerere University, Mbiro said a tourist now spends more hours during their stay in Jinja unlike before when the museum did not exist.

Other small businesses have also latched on the presence of the museum.

“Also, it is our responsibility to market to the tourist other great touristic sites in Busoga region which she or he should not miss during his/ her stay,” he said.

To remain relevant to the tourism market, Jinja Museum recruited and trained staff who give good customer care and guided tours.

Mbiro said: “The visitor responses have been positive and encouraging so far with good remarks. Many local visitors have donated materials towards this noble cause.”

Artifacts are bought from villages in their natural form, while others are collected from public institutions especially those on science and technology. Some people offer items to the museum free of charge.

“I encourage people to bring historical artifacts so that we can archive for the learning purpose of our young people. As it is well known, kids are good agents of change, even in nature conservation. We believe in 10 years local nationals will be majority tourists as a result of awareness to kids. Involvement of corporate companies by supporting local museums and parks either financially or materially will help to grow local tourism,” Mbiro said.

He said managing the museum has been an eye opener in matters of culture, environment and nature conservation.