“Income diversification among households living in forest margins helps to maintain a sustainable livelihood. Reducing forest dependency helps in-situ conservation of biodiversity thereby conserving forest resources.
There is great need to diversify income so that effects on forest resource extraction by rural communities living in forest margins, is reduced.
Diversified income sources of typical households include crop farming, off-farm employment, animal husbandry, home gardening and extraction of non-timber forest products and fuel wood,” says John F. Yanagida of Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
The observation of John F. Yanagida means a lot to the protection of Nyugwe forest.
Though Nyugwe forest is still such a huge one (it takes almost two hours of normal drive to cross it) there is still great need to protect it. Human egoistic anthropocentric values have worked to destroy the forests- it is indeed in a sorry state.
Nyungwe forest therefore, needs to be protected from human encroachment if it is to survive in the next years. People living near the forests had invaded it some time back, and had it not been the interference of the government, the impenetrable natural forest would not be any more.
“People had started cutting downing trees anyhow and some herdsmen had come to graze in the forest,” explains Mbabamombazi Jean Marie Vian, a retired agriculturalist in Kamembe town.
From a distance you can see the impenetrable forest, looking like a poorly managed air field. Trees are dying, leaving the hills hanging in air. It is indeed a dilapidated forest.
However some part of it still natural with all characteristics of big forests.
“Close the windows please, we about to reach a place where the coldness cannot be tolerated. This part of the forest reminds me of the original Nyungwe forest characteristics – very cold and impenetrable,” remarks Jean Baptist Ufitinema (60), a long time resident of Kamembe town in Rusizi district.
It is true that people like Jean Baptist Ufitinema, have known the forest since time immemorial when it was still the real ‘dark’ forest.
To such people therefore, it is no longer the forest they used travel through. By then, tree species richness and diversity were highest in lightly disturbed forest.
High intensity human disturbance adversely affected tree species abundance, diversity and regeneration and increased the incidence of damage to trees.
It was therefore the intervention of the government that saved its face, and actually promised that the forest will survival to benefit the future generations.
It is now a guarded forest and no more human encroachment is given space and time. It is so amazing to see that the passengers that use the road traversing the forest have been provided with strategic toilets so that they do not infect and affect the animals in the forest.
Whenever there are passengers with biological urges in a moving vehicle, the driver accelerates to the designated areas. Failure to do so would mean heavy fines or punishment from the forest authorities.
The people of Rwanda have to respect the environment as a sacred entity. This will extend people’s concern for decades beyond today’s generation.
There has been positive change from all governments around the world towards environmental/forest protection, but what remains is people’s values towards it. The problem is that the existing human life has moral priority over non human life.
This sets a very dangerous precedent especially that humans over the years have increasingly become the custodians of nature, and the future of present existence is held in human hands.
The people of Rwanda for must know that there is no alternative but to respect Nyugwe forest, we are intrinsically connected to the forest and whatever we decide will obviously affect us. Any egoistic endeavour will be hazardous in the long run.
It is imperative therefore, that moral considerations be extended to the environment if existing human life wishes to survive.