Mount Moroto to be declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Mount Moroto to be declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 6 months. The mountain, which lies at an altitude of about 3,083 meters above sea level, is located in Moroto district, Karamoja in the northern region of Uganda.
UNESCO, through its Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), is set to send a team of researchers and surveyors to conduct a feasibility study within and around Mount Moroto. The main purpose of carrying out the feasibility study is to;
• To establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people living within and around the mountain.
• To promote innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate, and also environmentally sustainable.
• To identify and assess the changes in the biosphere resulting from human and natural activities and the effects of these changes on humans and the environment, in particular in the context of climate change.
• To study and compare the vital interrelationships between natural or near-natural ecosystems within and around Mount Moroto, and the socio-economic processes. this will basically show the impact levels of human activities carried out within the mountain and its surrounding areas.
• To promote the exchange and transfer of knowledge on environmental problems and solutions, as well as to foster environmental education for sustainable development.
If Mount Moroto is declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, it will be the third biosphere reserve in Uganda after Queen Elizabeth National Park which was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1979; and Mount Elgon which was named a Biosphere Reserve in 2005.
Mount Moroto is one of the volcanic mountains located along Uganda’s border with the Republic of Kenya, and includes other mountains such as; Mount Elgon, Mount Kadam and Mount Morungole.
The area around Mount Moroto features a forest reserve which protects a wide range of habitats from arid thorn savanna to dry montane forest. The nature reserve that encloses Mount Moroto in Uganda measures 483 square kilometers. It has a rich biodiversity and consists of over 220 species of birds, along with different monkey species and wild cats among others.
Activities carried out around Mount Moroto.
There are currently few tourism activities that are being conducted within and around Mount Moroto and these include;
Mount Moroto is an excellent place for conducting birding tours during a Uganda Safari to the area. Bird watching around the mountain is best done around Lake Bisina and Lake Opeta, which can be accessed by visitors from Mount Moroto or Mount Elgon. Among some of the unique bird species that visitors can sight during a birding expedition on Mount Moroto include; the Lesser Jacana, the rare Shoebill stork, the African Pygmy Goose, Jackson’s Hornbill, and the Eastern Vilet-backed headed Plover to mention but a few.
Guided Nature Walks:
Guided nature walks are conducted on Mount Moroto and its surrounding areas. There existent hiking trails leading to the mountain and hikers are usually accompanied by experienced local guides. Visitors on a guided nature walk around Mount Moroto can sight a variety of wildlife animals such as; Potos, monkeys and wild cat species like the spectacular Golden Cat among others.
Hiking or Mountain climbing on Mount Moroto is conducted all year round. There are designated climbing trails that climbers can take. The total ascent and descent of the mountain is approximately 1,950 meters, covering a distance of about 26 kilometers. Mount Moroto can be hiked in a day for roughly 10 hours, with 8½ hours spent hiking and the other 1½ hours is spent resting. However, the number of hours spent climbing Mount Moroto in Uganda, depends on the physical fitness of the hikers/climbers and the pace they set. It is advisable for climbers to spend a night on the mountain, just below Imagit Peak which is a famous rest point for visitors spending an overnight on the mountain.
Cultural Encounters/Community Visits.
Tourists visiting Mount Moroto can also embark on interesting cultural tours and visit the nearby ethnic/tribal communities that live on the mountain and its surrounding areas. Some of the interesting communities to visit would be the Tepes people, who are speakers of the moribund Soo language. This ethnic group lives on the slopes of Mount Moroto and are among the minority tribes or ethnic groups that exist in Uganda. However; due to a number of reasons, most of the population of about 5,000 people in this ethnic group have shifted to Karamojong, leaving only a few dozen elderly individuals who can fluently speak the Soo language.
Accommodation around Mount Moroto.
Visitors who wish to spend a night around the mountain can always camp on the mountain, below Imagit Peak. Visitors can also find accommodation in Moroto Hotel which is located on the edge of Moroto town.
Getting to Mount Moroto in Uganda.
Visitors can always access Mount Moroto by road. The mountain can be accessed from Mbale via Soroti, which is about a 6 hours’ drive. Alternatively, visitors can travel to the mountain via the direct eastern route which is about 230 kilometers and will take about 7 hours of driving. Mount Moroto can also be accessed directly from Kampala via Soroti, covering a distance of about 343 kilometers which is about a 7½ hours’ drive.
Should Mount Moroto be declared a Biosphere Reserve, it will become a UNESCO protected area and subsequently, tourism activities on and around the mountain will increase. Visitors can combine a tour to Mount Moroto with a visit to the neighboring Mount Elgon National Park in the eastern part of Uganda.
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