Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) plans to partner with the over 1,000 landowner neighbouring Mukura-Gishwati National Park to manage its buffer zone and improving their livelihoods.
To achieve that, they have already mobilised about Rwf 1 billion to fund community projects around the park.
Patrick Nsabimana, the project coordinator of Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation (LAFREC ) at REMA, last week told the land owners to assess how other communities around Nyungwe National Park have managed to preserve its buffer zone.
Gishwati Mukura is the fourth national park in Rwanda and the newest with 3,558 ha accommodating flora and fauna including four species of primates namely the eastern chimpanzee, golden monkey, blue monkey, mountain monkey, tree species and birds.
The land owners are now required to abandon growing food crops such as potatoes, beans, maize, and others and only grow tea, plant trees and establish pasture in the buffer zone.
However, they wonder how they will survive once they grow long-term crops.
He explained that the options were friendly to the park, curb erosion and will avoid conflicts caused by animals invading crops.
“We have set aside about Rwf1bn to invest in community so that they be able to survive once they wait for the tea, trees to grow after five or ten years,”.
“The project to be financed to serve to meet daily basic needs and they will also form cooperatives in which others funds will be injected for bigger projects,” he said.
Jean Pierre Mbahungirehe from Mukura sector said: “The community projects we wish are like milk collection and processing center, cattle rearing, veterinary pharmacies , trading in seeds and fertilizers and others”.
Generating revenues from the park
Nsabimana said the communities around the park will also be able to benefit from revenue sharing (5 %) scheme once the park starts generating income as it is for other parks.
Telesphore Ngoga, Community Tourism Development Analyst at Rwanda Development Board told the Sunday Times that by from March this year RDB will start managing the Gishwati-Mukura national Park.
“We are soon going to construct offices around the park and recruit staff and then we will start planning tourism activities to start generating revenues,” he said.
In 2013, The Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS), a regional organization working for biodiversity conservation found that Mukura forest resources and ecosystems services are worth more than $1million per year while other scientists estimate that value of ecosystems services provided by Gishwati forest was $ 3 million.
Officials say the park is being prepared so that it will also be recognized by UNESCO World heritage as biosphere reserve.
The $9.5m LAFREC project is restoring degraded Gishwati-Mukura landscape by rehabilitating forests and biodiversity within its forest reserves, enhancing sustainable land management in the agricultural lands between them.
According to the coordinator, the project will also introduce silvo-pastoral approaches on 500 hectares in the rangelands of the central former Gishwati reserve.
Silvo-pastoralism is a form of agroforestry consisting of trees, pasture where forestry and grazing of domesticated animals are combined in mutually beneficial way.
Officials say at least 125 community income generating projects will be supported as way of improving the livelihoods of community in the project interventions zones.
The five-year project started last year is to restore the natural forest (653 ha), restore buffer zone plantations (500 ha) around the park, plant natural forests (700 ha) and sustainable land management on 1406 ha as over 18 tree species will be introduced.