Rwanda's tourism sector on Wednesday got a major boost after the Gishwati-Mukura landscape was recognized internationally after being designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Recognising Gishwati-Mukura as a biosphere reserve will foster economic development in the region while raising the country’s profile as a tourist destination, according to officials.
Biosphere reserves promote sustainable development, especially by involving the population living around in their management, conservation, and research on the interaction of human and nature, as explained by Leatitia Busokeye, the Director of Research, Environmental Planning at Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA).
“Inducting Gishwati-Mukura a biosphere reserve increases national and international recognition of the site as a good place to live, to work, and to visit,” said Busokeye.
Gishwati Mukura, which also consists of a national park, joined Rwanda’s Volcanoes in a network of more than 700 other biosphere reserves globally.
The landscape features larger Gishwati and smaller Mukura forests, a buffer zone and residence area.
Products that will be made from the area such as art crafts will carry the biosphere reserve brand, thus increasing their value on the market. Selling points have already been established.
Busokeye added that the induction will also drive ecotourism while allowing local population to carry out exchange programmes on good practices with their peers in the vast network of biosphere reserves.
For an area to be named a biosphere reserve, it must be legally protected and have specific value for conservation of biological diversity.
This means, there have to be species of conservation importance.
In the case of Gishwati Mukura, it was named Rwanda’s fourth national park in 2016 and placed under oversight of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
The reserve is home to a group of 20 chimpanzees which live alongside golden monkeys, L’Hoest’s and Blue Monkeys. There are 395 species of birds and 492 indigenous plant species in the park.
A few days ago, it was highlighted by Forbes as the world-famous magazine listed Rwanda among top 20 best destinations to travel to in 2021.
RDB said the designation will enable Rwanda to identify and assess the changes resulting from human and natural activities in the Gishwati-Mukura landscape.
The country will also be better placed to understand the effects of these changes on people and the environment, especially in the context of the climate crisis and global biodiversity loss.
Belise Kariza, Chief Tourism Officer at RDB said Rwanda has invested in natural solutions to restore and conserve the area as means to increase tourism prospects.
In 2014, the government received $9.5 million from the Global Environment Facility through the World Bank to restore and conserve the reserve that covers 34 square kilometres.
“Conservation not only preserves our natural heritage for future generations, but also plays an important role in fostering ecotourism as a pillar of economic development,” Kaliza said.
Last year, RDB signed a 25-year concession agreement with Imizi, a local subsidiary of Wilderness Safaris for the development of a multi-phased conservation and tourism management programme for the park.
The park has established plans for its tourist attractions
like primate trekking, birding, hiking and waterfall visits.Follow Mugisha_Cosma