"building communities where human being live in the harmony with nature"

Map of Gishwati forest
The core forest , A photo by Fabian Haas
Pastures land and the forest, A photo by Fabian Haas
Bitenga Village near the forest , A photo by Jean Claude
Kinihira Village near the forest, A photo by Fabian Haas
  • The Gishwati KBAis located in the North-West of Rwanda. It is a mountainous rainforest within the Congo–Nile watershed divide in Albertine Rift.  The Gishwati Forest Reserve is a home of animal species that are under international alarm for protection.There are more than 130 species of birds including 14 that are endemic to the Albertine Rift and two IUCN Vulnerable species: Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) and Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum).

Gishwati is home to Eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List). Chimpanzee isan excellent flagship in the protected areas in the Weat of Rwanda and umbrella species for conservation.The conservation of chimpanzee population does not only prevent their extension but also other numerousanimal and plant species that share the same habitat with them cherish. Chimpanzees are vulrnerable to human borne diseases because of their genetic composition in close the human’s, and this has been proved to be one of the major causes of their death.

A photo by Jean Claude DUSABIMANA

Golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), listed as Endangered, has a small distribution range (the extent of occurrence is less than 5,000 km² at most). In Rwanda, golden monkeys are found only in the Virunga volcanoes and Gishwati forest. This species was previously thought to be a subspecies of the blue monkey (Cercopithecusmitis), and the two are similar overall, but the golden monkey has a golden-orange patch on the upper flanks and back.Food niche overlap between Chimpanzees and Golden monkeys in Gishwati is very high. This is a unique site in the world where you can study both species in the same place.

A photo by Fabian Haas

Mountain monkeys (Cercopithecus l’hoesti), listed as Vulnerableby IUCN;commonly called L’ Hoest’s monkey, occurs in North-Easter Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and western Uganda. Mountain monkey lives in fairly small groups dominated by females and have only a single male per group. The females are usually related, while the male stays only a couple of weeks or at most a couple of years. Mountain monkeys have a more terrestrial lifestyle compared to golden monkeys.

A photo from Internet
  • The ecosystem goods and services provided by Gishwati Forest Reserve are enormous; it serves local farmers by absorbing and slowly releasing rainwater, preventing loss of topsoil and sometimes-disastrous landslides, and stabilizing microclimate. The forest filters and purifies septic tank discharge and agricultural runoff. It produces organic material that enriches soil, and recycles vital soil nutrients without the need for expensive chemical inputs. The forest is a continuing source of birds, bats, and insects that pollinate crops and aid in bio-control of insect pests. Conversely, under a regime of deforestation, these benefits are not just lost locally but impacts are also felt miles downstream.These are very imporant ecosystem services Gishwati provide to the local community as the majority of households around the park fully rely on agriculture for food and source of income.

  • Thus, Nature Rwanda received financial support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) to implement a project entitled “Empowering youth while raising awareness for sustainable conservation of Gishwati KBA in Rwanda”. It is in that context that Nature Rwanda is working with local communities to organize a Conservation Awareness Campaign around Gishwati with the aim of empowering local communities while raising awareness about conservation and protection of Gishwati KBA. In fact, community members around Gishwati will have the opportunity to explore and learn thebenefits Gishwati forest provides to them and will be mobilesed to take a leading part to conserve it
  • The future of Gishwati key Biodiversity area is brighter since it was gazette by the government of Rwanda as the fourth National Park. Thus, the Eco-tourism, among others, will contribute a lot in improving the livelihood of local communities while ensuring its sustainable management. Therefore, local communities need to be aware of both opportunities and challenges so that they can to engage themselves in the conservation activities of the park. The decistion of the Governement of Rwanda to have Mukura-Gishwati forests as a National park gives hope that communities around the park will be mobilised to live in harmony with nature without compromising the well-being of the future generations who will surely rely on it as much as they do now.


    By Léandre IRAGENA