Kisoro District, situated in the southwestern part of Uganda, has a rich history intertwined with the broader historical narratives of the region. Traditionally, the area was part of the Kingdom of Rwanda, with Bafumbira as the indigenous group. Colonial history saw this region incorporated into Uganda by British colonizers in 1910, where it remained as part of Kigezi District until it was carved out as Kisoro District in 1991. Kisoro District’s history was and continues to be shaped by its strategic location near the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kisoro District is administratively divided into one municipal council – Kisoro Town Council, and thirteen rural sub-counties, namely: Nyarusiza, Nyakabande, Muramba, Busanza, Kirundo, Nyarubuye, Murora, Chahi, Nyakinama, Bukimbiri, Kanaba, and Nyundo. The District is overseen by a District Chairman and managed by a Chief Administrative Officer. The Local Council system further decentralizes power, fostering community-led development initiatives.
Geographically, Kisoro District is set amidst the stunning backdrop of Uganda’s mountainous region, with the Virunga Mountains and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest characterizing the district’s geography. It is the most mountainous district of Uganda, with altitudes ranging from 1,190 to 4,127 meters above sea level. The district covers a total area of about 729.7 square kilometers, with nearly 10% covered by water bodies and swamps. Its location makes it vulnerable to soil erosion but also endows it with abundant mineral resources such as tin, wolfram, and coltan.
Demography and Culture
As per the most recent census, Kisoro District has an approximate population of 300,000. Bafumbira is the dominant ethnic group, with Kinyarwanda being the most widely spoken language, followed by Rufumbira. The people of Kisoro District have maintained their rich cultural traditions, with dance, music, and storytelling being integral parts of their cultural identity. Their traditional dance, known as “Kigezi,” is a sight to behold, reflecting their vibrant culture.
Infrastructure development has been steadily progressing in Kisoro District. While some areas, particularly remote ones, still face challenges, the central areas boast better access to roads, electricity, and clean water. The Kisoro Airfield provides an additional transportation link for the district. Internet connectivity, while not universal, is expanding, opening up avenues for digital growth and inclusion.
Kisoro District is a significant tourism hub, mainly due to its unique biodiversity. It is home to two significant national parks: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and a portion of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. These parks are renowned for mountain gorilla trekking, attracting tourists globally. The spectacular landscapes, including the scenic Lake Mutanda and the impressive Virunga Volcanoes, also contribute to Kisoro’s tourism appeal.
Education and Health Sector
The district prioritizes education, with numerous primary, secondary schools, and a few tertiary institutions like Kisoro School of Nursing and Midwifery. While literacy rates have been improving, challenges persist in terms of infrastructure, quality of education, and high dropout rates.
In terms of health, Kisoro District has health facilities ranging from Health Center IIs to a District Hospital. However, due to the district’s topography, access to these facilities can be challenging for those in remote areas. The district struggles with diseases like malaria, respiratory tract infections, and HIV/AIDS, amongst others.
Agriculture is the backbone of Kisoro District’s economy, with the majority of the population engaged in subsistence farming. The area is known for producing Irish potatoes, beans, sorghum, and bananas. The district also practices animal husbandry, with emphasis on cattle, goats, sheep, and poultry.
Small-scale mining, particularly of tin and wolfram, contributes to the district’s economy. The booming tourism industry, resulting from the district’s rich biodiversity and cultural heritage, also significantly impacts the district’s economic health.
Despite these assets, the district faces economic challenges, primarily due to its mountainous terrain, which limits the amount of arable land and makes transportation difficult. Additionally, limited access to markets and capital hinders the growth of the district’s businesses.
Kisoro District, with its beautiful landscapes, rich culture, and vibrant economy, has great potential. While it grapples with challenges linked to geography and resources, its resilience, and strategic planning continue to drive its development. The community’s commitment to cultural preservation and sustainable development is an inspiration for other districts in Uganda and beyond.