Despite the opportunities that come with neighbouring the Volcano National Park, some residents of Bisate (Kinigi) in Musanze District, complain that animals from the park have continued to destroy their crops, thus compromising food security in the area.
Speaking to The New Times in separate interviews, some of the affected residents said they have abandoned growing of certain crops like corn, beans and vegetables due to raids by buffaloes.
The farmers have resorted to growing potatoes and pyrethrum which are not prone to animal raids, they said last week.
Cecile Kakuze, one of the residents, said buffalos often stray and destroy maize gardens.
“We do not store any produce. That is why, in this area, we face food shortages,” she said.
Faustin Hakizimana, another resident, appealed to relevant authorities to fence off the park boundaries with a strong parameter wall.
He added that they have always complained to Rwanda Development Board that animals constitute a big problem to their farming activities.
“The animals benefit the country. But the problem is with the authorities who do not want to compensate us for our destroyed farms yet they know we depend on our farms,” Hakizimana lamented.
They said previously the animals in the park were not too many but they have since multiplied.
The animals stray into the fields frequently, especially in dry season. For gorillas, their most preferable diet is bamboo shoots but some time they eat bananas, beans and potatoes, according to residents.
“If it was not for animal raids, we would have more food since our soils are suitable for all crops,” another resident said.
Winfrida Mpembyemungu, the Mayor of Musanze District, admitted that animals destroy residents’ farms but said the victims are set to be compensated.
“RDB has set up a guarantee fund for those whose crops are destroyed and this fund will handle these problems,” she said.
The authorities said victims will receive their compensation after filling claim forms at the sector level.
Prosper Uwingeli, the National Volcanoes Park Manager, said they are rolling out a programme which will see affected residents reporting to local leaders to enable speedy compensation but said human-wildlife conflict is a big challenge.
“We do not want people to suffer because of Volcanoes Park wildlife. We normally try to prevent buffaloes from straying outside the park and whereever we find escape route we tighten the fence,” he said. “We wish to have a strong fence, but it is a long process which will take a long time.”
According to RDB, more than Rwf1.4 billion has been spent on community projects since 2005 in 41 sectors bordering the three national parks under the revenue sharing scheme to help reduce human-wild life conflict.
The five per cent tourism revenue sharing programme targets communities around the national parks of Volcanoes (north), Nyungwe (west), and Akagera in the east.