RUTSIRO - Fourteen schools in Rutsiro District have joined a conservation drive to save the endangered Gishwati forest.
The government, last year, evicted over 289 families, who had encroached on the forest and were felling trees, grazing animals and cultivating crops on the forest land.
Both primary and secondary schools in four sectors bordering Gishwati are working to restore the forest with Great Ape Trust, an American conservation organisation.
“We first sensitised our teachers and fellow students about the importance of conserving this forest but we are now taking the campaign home to our communities,” said Jean Bosco Hakizimana, a member of the of the conservation club in Nyagahinika Secondary School.
The 1,484-hectare forest is home to 19 chimpanzees, over 400 golden monkeys, mountain monkeys and different bird species.
“When people were encroaching on the forest, all the primates were in danger, some were killed; so we need to keep the animals so that our area can also develop in terms of tourism,” said Delphine Nyirangendahimana, also a member of the conservation club.
Gishwati area conservation program under the Great Ape Trust has worked to conserve the forest through restoration and preservation of biodiversity, while conserving chimpanzees among other living creatures.
However, students highlighted some of the challenges they face including limited time to carry out the campaign to the grassroots, given their rigorous academic schedule and lack of enough sensitisation materials such as books.
“We want to see this forest conserved since it improves people’s livelihood by providing rainfall,” said Madeleine Nyiratuza, coordinator of Great Ape Trust.