KAYONZA – The governor of Eastern Province Dr. Ephraim Kabaija has advised farmers to consider looking at the Akagera national park as a national heritage by closely guarding its fragile ecosystem. He said this during a meeting with cattle keepers around Akagera national park.
The aim of the meeting was to look at ways of curbing the encroachment by cattle keepers into the park.
The meeting that was attended by several other government officials was held at the shores of Lake Muhazi.
Speaking at the gathering, Kabaija asked farmers to take the encroachment issue seriously as it was considered unlawful by the Government.
“Farm owners take the greatest share of the encroachment which is a dangerous thing to do. For instance such unlawful activities related to encroachment has led to fires that has gutted down the park.
I think you need to be more responsible in taking care of this kind of national heritage,” said Kabaija.
The meeting comes after a fire that recently destroyed hundreds of hectares in the Akagera national park, which was said to have originated from the farms neighbouring the park, according to security officials.
“We are going to be more vigilant to stop illegal spread of such fires. We have been keeping close eye on you and will start apprehending culprits, so that heavy punishment is given,” said Mary Gahonzire, the acting Commissioner General of police.
In response some farm labourers feigned ignorance on the dangers some of the farming activities posed to the park such as burning of farming waste materials during the dry spell.
“Our bosses ordered us to burn some rubbish within the farms. We did not know that by so doing we would be creating a much larger problem,” one of the men arrested for allegedly burning the park said.
Rose Rugamba,the deputy CEO at Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in charge of tourism and conservation ,asked farmers to desist from activities that may endanger the park’s ecosystem.
“The national park belongs to you and the nation at large. It is illogical for us to keep on asking you to maintain it, yet directly or indirectly you benefit from it,” she said.