HUYE — Rwanda has signed a joint forest conservation deal with Burundi.
The deal was signed on Wednesday in Huye district by Chantal Rugamba, the Director General of Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), and her Burundian counterpart, Adelin Ntungumburanye, who heads Burundi’s Institut National pour l’Environnement et Conservation de la Nature (INECN).
Under the deal, the parties will carry out trans-boundary collaboration on protection of Kibira National Park in Burundi and Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda.
Rugamba explained that the core objective of the joint collaboration is to ensure sustainable conservation of the ecosystem in both Kibira and Nyungwe.
“The Ecosystem is not only precious and unique, but is home to various endemic species thus the need to protect the habitat for future generations,” said Rugamba.
Ntungumburanye hailed the pact, saying it was a milestone in conservation activities in the two sister countries.
Situated in the South East corner of Rwanda and with an area of 1,030 KM2, Nyungwe forms the largest Afro-montane forest in East and Central Africa.
It was created in 1935 as a forest reserve and was gazetted in 2005 as a National Park.
Over the years, the forest has undergone considerable degradation of its fauna and flora due to uncontrolled human activity.
According to the park’s Chief Warden, Louis Rugiranyange, in the period 1986-2003, 12 percent of the forest (including the Kibira section in Burundi) has been destroyed by fires.
“It has been difficult for us to cooperate with our counterparts in Burundi on conservation issues because there has been no streamlined framework to the effect. This is what makes the MoU signed today very important,” said Rugiranyange.
Enshrined in the pact on the trans-boundary collaboration are issues to do with conservation of the biodiversity, natural resources, and associated cultural values, research, monitoring and ecotourism for both countries.
Collaboration will also be seen in planning and better management of forest resources to reduce threats and ensure rational sharing of resources and skills development for the sustainable conservation of both areas.
To ensure the effectiveness of the joint efforts, a core secretariat will be set up.
It will be constituted by teams from ORTPN and INECN. A strategic plan that will define the work plan and various proposals on conservation of both areas will be elaborated.
The move is being facilitated by the Wild Life Conservation Society (WCS).
According to Nsengiyumva Barakabuye, an official from WCS, the organisation has assisted in the areas of technical support, creation of awareness at the grass root levels and policy development.
The signing ceremony was witnessed by Governors; Fidele Ndayisaba of the Southern Province and Penelope Kantarama, of the Western Province.
Others present included Police and Army authorities, local leaders from Sectors and districts surrounding the Nyungwe forest, on the part of Rwanda and a delegation of 25 people from Burundi who included local leaders and residents of areas surrounding Kibira forest National Park.