Enhancing local community resilience and livelihood improvement around Gishwati National Park, Rwanda

@forest of hope
Published: 25 July 2019
Last edited: 25 July 2019
remove_red_eye 360 Views

Summary

To ensure the protection of the Gishwati forest, Forest of Hope Association (FHA) launched the « Community Forest Protection Initiative » , a new approach aimed at helping local communities to play an active role in its protection. Six Community Agents and 6 community committees, each composed of three people, are active and together function as community and forest guardians. The role of these agents and committees, is to patrol the forest and educate local people about its importance and its biodiversity. The active contribution from local community and the support of other stakeholders including local leaders is a critical element to the success of FHA’s effort to protect Gishwati forest, together with a clear perspective on each players’ responsibilities and duties. Also, this successfully influenced the government to upgrade this forest to a national park. FHA is still willing to strengthen the collaboration with local community in Gishwati protection to sustain its achievement.

Classifications

Region
East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Local
National
Ecosystem
Forest ecosystems
Tropical evergreen forest
Theme
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Outreach & communications
Restoration
Traditional knowledge
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 13 – Climate action
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 11: Protected areas
Sendai Framework
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030
(I)NDC Submission

Location

Rwanda
Show on Protected Planet

Challenges

Gishwati forest shelters endangered primates and plays a major role in provisioning fresh water in the region but it conservation have been undermined by the massive cattle grazing; illegal harvesting of charcoal, timber, firewood, handcraft materials and honey; mining; and agricultural incursions for many years.  The main challenge is related to local pressure on the forest resources.

Beneficiaries

our direct beneficiaries have been and will continue to be people living in 4 sectors, of Rutsiro district in western Rwanda, in which Gishwati forest is located

How do the building blocks interact?

The two are combined to achive the real impact needed.

Impacts

Using the Community Forest Protection Initiative, FHA has big achievements:

 

illegal use of the forest declined sharply; the size of GFR increased from 900 to 1,500 hectares, the number of chimpanzees grew from 13 to 30, the 600 hectares added to the core forest are naturally regenerating and chimpanzees started using this area.

 

The capacity of 10 local cooperatives is increased with 3 of them also empowered in tourism development. They use income to buy alternatives of what they were collecting from the forest.

 

13 school eco-clubs are established and supported in environmental education.  10 of our 12 employees are from local villages and use the income they earn to improve their families’ livelihoods. This also helps their neighbors to change the attitudes towards the forest conservation. Indeed, attitudes of local people positively changed from 27% in 2008 to 75% in 2018.

 

The greatest achievement however, Gishwati forest is nowadays gazetted as a National Park. We are confided that the community conservation partnership will continue to be sustained.

Story

@forest of hope

Forest of Hope Association (FHA) is a local non-government organization that emerged from the Great Ape Trust/Gishwati Area Conservation Program (GACP), which conserved Gishwati Forest Reserve (GFR) from 2008 through 2011. FHA was created in 2012 by senior staff of GACP with the purpose of engaging the community in conservation of GFR.  

 

Using the Community Forest Protection Initiative, we have big achievements: illegal use of the forest declined sharply; the size of GFR increased from 900 to 1,500 hectares, the number of chimpanzees grew from 13 to 30, the 600 hectares added to the core forest are naturally regenerating and chimpanzees started using this area.13 school eco-clubs are established and supported, and the capacity of 10 local cooperatives is increased with 3 of them also empowered in tourism development. Indeed, attitudes of local people positively changed from 27% in 2008 to 56% in 2011 and to 75% in 2013. The greatest achievement however, Gishwati forest is nowadays gazetted as a part of Gishwati-Mukura National Park

 

With no formal government protection, FHA has been critical to the survival of GFR as a sole organization working to conserve and restore it. There is no doubt that without its presence, massive cattle grazing; illegal harvesting of charcoal, timber, firewood, handcraft materials and honey; mining; and agricultural incursions would have restarted.

 

FHA relies on small grants and our impressive achievements confirm that no matter how much money is invested; guiding local community to manage their natural resources by themselves is a strong factor for success. Our approach combines employing local people, supporting local community to protect the forest by themselves, community education and outreach, solving human-wildlife conflicts using conservation agreements and improving local livelihoods through community tourism development.

Contributed by

Jean Baptiste HAVUGIMANA