Category Archives: Conservation

Celebration of the World Migratory Bird Day 2011

This year 2011, ACNR in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Rwanda Birding Association (RBA) organized a joint event. With RDB on board this was the first celebration of WMBD on a national level in Rwanda.


The Programme

The celebration of World Migratory Bird Day 2011 in Rwanda had 3 components.
1) A preliminary round table discussion was broadcasted live on Rwanda TV onwmbd_2 Thursday 12th May 2012, featuring
– Mrs Rica Rwigamba, Head of theTourism and ConservationDepartment at RDB to present the standpoint of the government on bird conservation and tourism,
– Mr Serge Nsengimana, ACNR Executive Director to call for conservation of Birds and their habitats in general and migratory birds in particular and
– Mr Davidson Mugisha, President of RBA to talk on behalf of eco-tourism operators in Rwanda.
2) A press release on World Migratory Bird Day 2011 and the events in Rwanda was sent out to prominent media in Rwanda to advertise the celebration. The press release was coordinated by ACNR and RDB.
3) Sunday 15th May 2011 was the day for a big bird watching event, aiming at catching people’s interest in birds and their protection needs while at the same time introducing the newly developed Bugesera Birding Circuit. It brought together more than 100 participants including RDB, ACNR and RBA staff, bird guides, Nature Club students, community members, media, tour operators, some diplomats like the US Ambassador, government officials and general public.

The event was held in Bugesera District, south of Kigali. Participants were assembled in three Birding Groups for different birding sites; one to two guides were available for each group. After birding, participants met at Gashora La Palisse Hotel, for refreshments and short boat rides on Lake Rumira. Speeches were held by the following individuals:
– Davidson Mugisha as MC, as an introduction and information on avi-tourism in Rwanda.
– The Mayor of Bugesera District to welcome the event.
– Bird watching group representatives to talk about their impressions from bird watching.
– An ACNR representative to recite a poem on the World Migratory Bird Day.
– Rica Rwigamba to thank all participants for coming and invite for lunch.

ACNR initiated the creation of a paper bird sculpture. For this purpose every participant received a paper bird to write on it his personal impressions, ideas and wishes concerning WMBD. Afterwards all paper birds were collected and will be hung up in the RDB entrance hall in a shape of big bird, where more than thousand people pass every day, to give the event an even bigger range.
RDB provided logistics for all participants, including transport and refreshments while ACNR provided all necessary information on birds, posters, fact sheets, buttons for all participants etc. Guides and birding materials were shared by all organizing parties.

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Conclusion
World Migratory Bird Day 2011 in Rwanda can be called a success. The collaboration of three able institutions substantially increased the range and diversity of the event, despite the time pressure of preparation at the last minute and ACNR’s financial constraints. Feedback from the participants and also the organizing parties was throughout positive, showing that the event had left a mark in people’s minds and will leave them thinking about birds and the threats they face.

Launch of the new canopy walk in Nyungwe National Park

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Friday, the 15th of October, the canopy walk in Nyungwe National Park, which is meant to give a new experience to tourists by bringing them to the “eye-to-eye level” with different primate and bird species that are used to live or to breed in the upper scales of the forest and giving them the possibility to have an overwhelming view over a big part of Nyungwe, was inaugurated.

The opening act started at 10.30 am. Speeches were hold by the Head of the section “Tourism and Conservation” at RDB (Rwanda Development Board), Mrs Rica Rwigamba and Mr. Louis Rugiranyange, the Chief Park Warden of Nyungwe National Park. The canopy walk, which is located in the middle of the Igishigishigi trail is the biggest walkway in East Africa which is, at its highest point, situated 90 meters above the ground, which should enable tracking tourists to gain inside of the upper tree levels as well as their inhabitants such as different primates, birds and orchids. The whole process of planning and constructing the canopy walk took at least five years during which there were mainly 25 people constantly involved in the building process. It was mainly financially supported by the US government through USAID and built by Canadian specialists from Green Heart Conservation Society.

The canopy walk is very strong and can support maximum 4 tones.

canopy walk

 

During the launching ceremony, there were only 12 people, including two guides, allowed to do the canopy walk at one time at one lap. Therefore, the opening acts´ visitors were divided into ten groups. This was necessary in order to make sure that everybody could walk at his own speed and could enjoy his/her first walk on the new building and no one had to hurry. The first group included the Minister of Trade and Industries, Mrs. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the Chief Operation Officer at RDB, Mrs. Clare Akamanzi, the “Changée d’ Affaires” at USAID/Rwanda Program and other VIPs. 

 

 We as ACNR staff members (Serge Joram Nsengimana, Executive Director, Dane Beckers [see left picture] and Till Esch [bottom], both German volunteers) were inside the 9th group.

Serge and Dane

Till

 

 

 

 

 

By chance, after a walk of 20 minutes toward the canopy walk, we were able to see two blue monkeys playing in the tree tops.

The whole walk, including some stops when our guide was giving information about a special tree species, when we had to wait for people in front of us to finish their turn or when he was giving us instructions on how to behave inside Nyungwe National Park or on the canopy walk, took us about two hours.

It was really a great experience for me and Dane, not just because it was our first time to visit a rainforest but also because we have never been that deep in nature, surrounded by nothing but the fresh air and the tree tops, and we would recommend to everyone visiting Nyungwe National Park and doing the canopy walk.

Climate Change Education at Nature Clubs

When the ACNR team arrived back from holding a seminar at ASPESKA Secondary School Karenge (south of Kigali) last Sunday, we were tired and very happy about the day. It was the first of a series of trainings on climate change which ACNR is currently offering for its Nature Clubs and we were once again surprised by the students’ eagerness to learn and to become active for their environment.

The presentation on the causes and consequences of climatic change had to be held under slight difficulties – electricity broke down and our carefully composed PowerPoint presentation went for the birds… – but with lively participation of the club members. Their school is situated in a rural region of Rwanda, where most people live from subsistence farming and will greatly be affected by climate change, just as the ASPESKA students and their families. DSC00442_1Our group work on adaptation strategies for the school and the surrounding communities therefore landed on fertile ground and – despite language problems as many Rwandan students are not yet comfortable in English – produced a lovely creative action plan (see right) for the club.

“Our Environmental Club members need more training, lots of training, so we can learn about our environment, how to protect it and how we can have an impact. If we know many things we can be successful in our club activities.” This is what Jean-Pierre, committee member of the club ‘Amis de la Nature ASPESKA’ told us after the workshop, and with that he is quite right. Environmental Clubs exist in many Rwandan schools but a great part of them is inactive due to insufficient financial means, moral support or – most importantly – knowledge. Jean-Pierre and his club colleagues take part in the current ACNR Nature Club education program. DSC00397_1It involves the trainings on climate change and Nature Club Management as well as environmental art competitions and increased networking efforts between the clubs. All together the project is going to involve around 600 students from primary, secondary and higher education institutions, who will certainly use the chance to make their clubs more effective in nature conservation.

See below some more photos from a recent event at a Primary School Nature Club, the ‘Club Nature Coeur Joyeux’, were children were invited for educative games and a bird drawing competition.

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Children playing the Migratory Bird Game

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Children drawing

P1030549_1Club Coordinators, ACNR staff and the winners of the competition

Muvumba Gallery forest conservation project

Muvumba river is located in  Nyagatare district of Northern Rwanda. Along its banks the river shelters a relict gallery forest constituted mainly of Acacia kirkii (locally known as IMIKINGA). The Acacia kirkii tree is unique and does not occur anywhere else in the Great Lakes Region. The species is in balance with its environment, tolerates the frequent flooding, and maintains a humid microclimate all year round thus enabling many undergrowth species to survive. It provides habitat for many bird, amphibian and also mammal species. The Rwandan forest law provides for a mandatory 10 meters wide virgin strip to protect the banks of rivers. This is an extraordinary effort to conserve river wetlands but in the case of Muvumba River it is not enough, as the Acacia trees are threatened by extinction. The gallery forest as it stands today is threatened by human activities such as farming, settlement, firewood collection and agriculture.

The ACNR project for the conservation of Muvumba gallery forest is funded by CARPE and will be carried out between August 2009 and August 2010. It aims at enhancing the value and conservation of Muvumba relict forest and at raising awareness on its importance amongst local communities.

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Muvumba gallery forest

A new start

Dear readers!

After quite a period of silence on this ACNR (see right) blog, we are now making a new start in publishing the latest news about conservation action in Rwanda.

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A fresh team of bloggers, consisting of the ACNR Director Serge, myself – Julia, Till, a new ACNR volunteer arriving from Germany very soon and sporadic guest bloggers, will from now on keep you up to date on ACNR’s projects, extraordinary environmental action and activities in Rwanda and stories from wildlife conservation work.

I hope you enjoy reading, and if you do, please spread the word!

Our environment depends on us!

All my best,

Julia

P.S. In the meantime, check out the ACNR homepage: www.acnrwanda.org

Celebration of World Migratory Bird Day (May 9th – 10th, 2009) in Rwanda

Rwanda on Saturday May 9 joined the rest of the world to mark World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD), with a big turn up of bird watchers. The celebration was organized by the Association for the Conservation of Nature in Rwanda, (ACNR), the BirdLife Partner in Rwanda, in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). The highlight of the celebration marked under the theme, “Barriers to Migration” was bird watching excursion at a man-made Lake in Nyarutarama, on the outskirts of Kigali City.

Similar, on May 10th, 2009, bird watching excursion was carried out at Lake Rumira in Bugesera District in eastern Rwanda. This area is probably expected to be a habitat for migratory waterbirds in Rwanda.

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Birdwatching with birdlovers and nature club “Coeur joyeux”

Over 100 people attended the event including pupils and teachers from school Wildlife Club called “Coeur Joyeux” drawn from Anglican Church located near Kigali City Park, the representatives from some nature clubs affiliated to ACNR such as “Rwanda University Club for Conservation of Biodiversity (RUCCB)”, “Amis Muyaga” from ASPESKA College, journalists from print and broadcast, etc…
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During this celebration the “Coeur Joyeux” Wildlife Clubs played a sketch demonstrating local barriers to migratory birds in Rwanda including intensify agriculture activities, wetlands drainage and other activities related to ecosystems disturbance, etc.

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This awareness campaign was to protect migratory birds and their habitats. Annually, on the second weekend of May, people around the world organise public events such as bird festivals, education programmes and birdwatching excursions as part of activities to mark the World Migratory Bird Day. “This campaign had a major impact on how Rwandans perceive migratory birds and it has the potential to unite many different communities to rise against buriers met by migratory birds and humanitarian perils facing them today,” he added. Meanwhile, Birdlife International has launched a new programme called “Born to Travel Campaign” aimed at protecting migratory birds along the African-Eurasian flyway.

Also, this event has attracted more teams and spectators than ever before, including both government institutions, local NGO’s working in wildlife conservation and private sector. There has been a considerable effort to get more teams, including females and males, to participate, in the events. As this event has started to produce a significant contest of skills, awareness and friendship, we hope that the campaign will involve more people for the protection of birds and biodiversity in general in Rwanda. Actually, this year saw the arrival of several new teams of Kigali birdlovers.

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Climate change, a Human rights Violation

Climate Change; A threat to Development; A human rights issue!

Within an international community based upon the rule of law and universal values of equality, human rights and dignity, it is surely wrong for small, vulnerable communities to suffer because of the actions of other more powerful resource-rich countries, actions over which they have no control, and little or no protection.‘ Gayoom, President of Maldives.

African farmers may safe the world”A coastal (Tureture) village in Papua New Guinea. later destroyed by water due to a sudden king tide (2007)”

People from the poorest countries are worst affected by global warming. Climate change impacts will definitely reverse the development prospects in these countries. Crop production is likely to reduce by half by 2020. This means the food crisis will get the African countries faster due to climate change. The people of the small island nations of the pacific (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands Fiji etc) find most of their land under water due to king tides or cyclones; the people in the highlands of Kenya, Rwanda wake up one morning to find their crops moved and destroyed in landslides. AS I write this, the Turkanas of Kenya have moved to Uganda in search of pastures because of the drought that has hit their homeland. The herders and the police reservists accompanying are facing disarmament from the Ugandan militias and this will leave them cheap prey for the cattle rustlers from the other side. If they don’t die there, they will definitely loose their livelihoods source-their cattle. The cause of all this is the variability in climate which the Turkanas know nothing about nor have their actions contributed anything to the situation.

Human rights to development require international support to come to fruition”

Climate change has led to all these socio-economic strive in the underdeveloped countries. Industrialized countries release huge amounts of green house gases into the atmosphere daily and are causing this untold suffering to the underdeveloped countries. While the heavy polluters have the ability to mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change, the underdeveloped countries are highly vulnerable. They have little or no capacity to mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change. Human rights activists led by Mary Robinson, president, “Realizing Rights” (former president of Ireland); put their voices together to lobby for the realization of this important human rights violation. This was during an African Climate Change conference held in Kigali between

10th and 11th of September 2008. The Workshop was organized by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) in partnership with the London School of Economics and

sponsored by the government of Rwanda, LSE Fund, BBC world Service Trust and Howell and Sharon. The conference brought together policy makers, civil society, academicians and politicians with an aim of strategizing on how the African poor can adapt or mitigate against the impacts of climate change. The government of Rwanda, led by president Paul Kagame has realized that climate variability threatens the livelihoods of her people and that an immediate action needs to be taken by all stakeholders to reduce their vulnerability. President Kagame said climate change was an issue that needed more attention by all to liberate the African people from the vicious circle of poverty. Obviously, this visionary leader has realized the weight of this issue and has given it the political weight it requires. He called on other African leaders and policy makers not to keep lamenting but see climate change as a challenge to economic development that needs to be addressed immediately.

Now, there is enough evidence that climate change is a human rights issue and the heavy polluters should pay to help support the development of the most vulnerable nations’ capacity to mitigate and adapt to these adverse impacts.

People from the poor underdeveloped countries are part of the more than 2000 million farmers in the world. The farmers are custodians of most what’s left of the world’s natural resources; holding in their hands the fate of thousands of threatened species as well as the world’s remaining forests.

“Under no Circumstances should a people be deprive of their right to a livelihood”

I concur with Julian Cribb (editor science alert) that these farmers could probably be the ones who can safe the world. The African farmer will not only need to feed the continent but also restore its forests, cleanse its waters, protect its wild species, improve its soils and absorb a substantial percentage of the carbon we all emit as we go about our lives. The farmers need first to be informed of this important role and be equipped with the right skills and ample funding to do this. The African continent has the potential to provide solutions to the climate change threats by replanting forests and sow new Agro-forests; design farming systems that enrich the soils with organic matter, thereby absorbing carbon out of the atmosphere instead of degrading it and releasing carbon; filter, cleanse and restore the fresh waters; use new science in some cases and re-apply old science in others to turn agriculture in much of the continent into the engine of economic growth and prosperity, thereby tackling the millennium goals of reducing poverty, hunger and disease. For example, by preparing and using humus, the farmers will facilitate arbiscular micorrhizal fungi to grow thereby absorbing a lot of organic carbon from the atmosphere and stabilizing the carbon cycle in the soil. This creates an economic commodity for farmers (sequestered carbon) and makes the land more valuable by improving soil and water conservation, thus enhancing both the economic and environmental components of adaptive capacity. The drier parts of Africa have the greatest potential of growing Jatropha trees which are a great source of bio-fuel, a clean source of energy that can run of most of the African economies. The pastoralists of semi-arid Africa could be holding the most important genes (in their livestock) that may safe the world in breeding animals that can adapt to hotter drier conditions we are definitely going to experience in the short to medium term.

Many African scientists have done very well in research in many areas including climate change. However, their skills and knowledge have not been utilized beyond the certificate in their briefcases and the research papers on their shelves. The African voices are seriously lacking on the negotiation tables like the Kyoto discussions. Grace Akumu of Climate Network Africa said that it is now important for African leaders to mainstream climate change in all economic development plans and take a lead in negotiating over the issue in the discussions. She further noted that more (donor funding) should be directed at supporting capacity to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change for more sustainable development.

“More of and active African Voices are needed on the negotiating tables. The heavy polluters have to realize that their emissions lead to violation of a fundamental human right- the right to live, among the underdeveloped countries” A united Africa can challenge the wet- the biggest polluters to slow down their rates of green house emissions while supporting the poor countries capacity to adapt and mitigate the unavoidable impacts of climate change. The forum observed that the climate human rights linkage needs more appropriate research to develop a model that can place responsibility on individual actors including the private sector. An international enforcement mechanism needs to be designed.

The media can play an important role in creating awareness and training people on how to adapt and mitigate climate change. Christine K of BBC World Service Trust advised journalists that the climate change should be appropriately presented to the African public. Climate change should not be presented as an environmental apocalypse but as a serious scenario which everyone in the world can do something to improve. The African people have a right to access of the right information regarding climate change and all forms of media should be used to bridge the gap.

The conference made a number of recommendations. More important is that more of African voices need to be heard more on the negotiating forums and more funding be availed to build the capacity of Africa to adapt to climate variability and climate change. Adaptation should not be used as a substitute to mitigation. Both are options for reducing the impacts of climate change in the short and long run and should be employed together.

All the necessary efforts should be made to respect and protect the fundamental human rights of poor, weaker and the marginalised, including the indigenous people; both locally and internationally.

Introducing ACNR Rwanda

Here comes Enoch Ontiri, Introducing conservation work in Rwanda.

The Kisii highlands are beautiful to look and very nice to visit and even stay. The whole of Kenya where I grew up is just fantastic. But all these did not stop me from going to Papua New Guinea where to work in nature conservation. I volunteered with VSO, attached to a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) project. I had to extend my stay there for another one year for many reasons. The transfly wetlands in Papua New Guinea are great habitat with rich biodiversity. The culture of the people there is very interesting too. Conservation work is just but trying to protect the largely intact natural habitats. I am sure I will go back many years in future and see much of the nature intact and most people’s live much improved, courtesy of WWF’s work and ongoing commitment to support communities to conserve their resources.

Now, let me take you to Rwanda, a country of a thousand hills….

In the rural areas of Rwanda, people are struggling to get their daily bread from their immediate surrounding! In a country that is recovering from the worst calamities, the 1994 genocide and the after mats, people are faced with serious challenges of poverty but most important, lack of appropriate information.

Rwanda is a small country in East Africa measuring 26,338 square kilometers with a human population of about 10 million. 47 % of the land is used for agricultural purposes, 18% pasture and 22% is forest. Within this classification of forests fall the national parks and nature parks of Nyungwe, Akagera and Volcanoes. The national parks are home to Antelopes, Zebras, Buffalos, Giraffes, Golden monkeys, Chimpanzees, mountain Gorillas, Golden cats, giant forest hog, duiker, and sitatunga among others. There are about 670 recorded species of birds also. The country has some of the major wetlands forming part of the source of the river Nile.

The country, popularly known as “country of a thousand hills” is faced with very complex environment and natural resource conservation challenges. The greatest component of the challenges is the high ever increasing human population. The population growth rate is the highest in the region and there are also a big number of returnees who the government has to provide for. There have been a number of attempts to convert the forest land into farming/human settlements in the recent years. The hilly landscapes are fast loosing the top soil layer through erosion. This is aggravated by overstocking and poor cultivation methods. It is so bad because many people here don’t realize that Environmental challenges both underpin and define all aspects of human development, from economic development to health to food security.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about Association Pour conservation du la Nature au Rwanda, the organisation that I work with.