Category Archives: Rwanda

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

canopy walk

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.

Are we environmental instructors or English teachers?

Rwanda, now a member of the Commonwealth, has recently abruptly changed its second official language from French to English. One can easily understand that this transition does not work as smoothly in real life as it does on paper, but in the cities one can happily observe the progress. Accordingly the current ACNR education project on climate change was developed in English, but we are prepared to switch to French if students’ understanding requires it. Particularly complicated issues can be explained in Kinyarwanda and usually this strategy works without problems.

Just occasionally we arrive at schools, like the Centre Scholaire de Gaseke in the very remote North of Rwanda, where the French-English transition problem seems to be an embarrassment of riches. Secondary students speak no English at all, very broken French and have difficulties even reading Kinyarwanda.

Coming there to teach climate change we find ourselves in a dilemma: If we carried out the workshop in Kinyarwanda, we would work against the government’s aim to create a bilingual nation. If teachers use the local language only to make their subjects clear, the rural communities will remain disadvantaged.

P1040610On the other hand, if we used English or French to explain the causes and consequences of climate change, our teaching would pass students without reaching their conscience and understanding. The Climate Change Education Program would have no impact where climate change affects people most: in the poorest, agriculturally dominated regions of Rwanda.

This is probably the time to let go of the beautiful picture of a multilingual Rwanda and face the reality: 80% of Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda only. At ACNR we are environmental instructors, not English teachers. Our goal is to get the environmental message across, this is our task and responsibility which we have to work for in all available possibilities. Don’t you think so?

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

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.