Pyrethrum farmers from the environs of Volcanoes National Park in Northern Province are seeking clarity about plans to expand the habitat for mountain gorillas that are increasing in numbers.
The expansion plans are expected to affect the pyrethrum farms.
A recent census shows that there are currently over 604 mountain gorillas in volcano national park having increased from 480 in 2010 and from 285 in 1978.
However, the over the years, the Park has been shrinking due to human activity, with some estimates reporting that the encroachment has taken about 55 percent of park since 1925.
It currently stands at 160 square kilometres.
Emmanuel Niyonzima, who cultivates pyrethrum on a one-hectare piece of land in Musanze district, told The New Times that they saw people marking demarcations a few months ago but they remain ill-informed and it is causing speculations.
He said they do not know what will come next in terms of relocation and compensation adding that there has never been a meeting with them to update them on the exercise.
Victor Kagayigayi, the crop production manager at SOPYRWA (Société de Pyrèthre au Rwanda), a subsidiary of Horizon Group that engages in the production, processing, and marketing of pyrethrum, told The New Times that they need clarification and consultation on the impact the expansion will have on pyrethrum.
“We heard that RDB announced plans to expand the gorilla habitat yet there are pyrethrum and Irish potatoes plantations around the Volcanoes National Park. There is no official information from RDB to us about that plan. We should be part of consultations to discuss what next,” he said.
There are about 37,000 farmers who take part in the growing of pyrethrum on 3,500 - 5,000 hectares of land. They produce of between 1,300 tonnes and 1,500 tonnes every year.
“The yield has been increasing year on year. In 2017 we got 1,590 tonnes and up from 1,340 tonnes in 2016,” he said.
According to available figures, Rwanda exported pyrethrum worth $3.8 million last year with the target to reach $6.2 million this year which would represent growth of 60 per cent.
However, Kagayigayi says farmers’ produce and exports could reduce if part of the plantations are taken up by the park without alternative land allocated for growing the rare crop.
According to the governor of Northern Province, Jean-Marie Vianney Gatabazi, they have asked RDB to consult all local leaders, farmers and other property owners around the park so that everything becomes clear and compensation is properly made.
“If the expansion happens, farmers growing pyrethrum and other crops have to be compensated. We can discuss if SOPYRWA and other farmers can get land elsewhere after being compensated.
We discussed with RDB that people’s livelihoods must be considered. Expropriation is a long the process. Every step must be taken in consultation with the people and local leaders so that they are not negatively affected,” he said.
Bottom line, Gatabazi said, both the livelihood of the people surrounding the park and the expansion of the gorilla habitat are important, adding that the former actually directly gain from the latter.
RDB says studies still ongoing
Telesphore Ngoga, a conservation analyst at Rwanda Development Board (RDB) told The New Times that studies are being carried out to determine the expansion size and how farmers can be compensated.
“We had proposed to expand the habitat to about 2,500 hectares but studies will ascertain if we can reduce that limit the impact on farmers. Whatever we decide will be guided by the ongoing studies,” he said.
Belise Kariza, the Chief Tourism Officer at RDB said: “So far, we have conducted two preliminary studies; one socio-economic impact of the expansion on people and another the ecological impact. Once the studies are completed we will share the findings.”
Kariza added that they engage local leaders, the private sector, and the surrounding community.
“When we get clear direction on the development, we will inform people and the media soon,” she said.