Conservation efforts in the Nyungwe Forest have been led by PCFN (Projet Conservation de la Foret de Nyungwe), a project supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), since 1984. PCFN has been working with the Rwandan Development Board or RDB, formerly the Office de Tourisme et Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN), to mitigate major threats to the forest and build capacity for forest conservation. PCFN/WCS and RDB focus their conservation efforts in five areas: Law Enforcement, Tourism, Monitoring and Research, Community Conservation, and Capacity Building. The following is summarized from a report produced by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
After the events of 1994, there was little or no security within the forest. Encroachment, fires, and mining camps were particularly a problem. WCS, PCFN, and RDB have worked together to train 40 staff members. Wardens, rangers, and the military are collaborating to maintain control of the forest. WCS is also working with the government to develop a management plan for the park that will determine zoning for conservation, tourism, and sustainable harvesting.
Historically, tourism has been one of the most important parts of Rwanda’s economy. Prior to the genocide, tourism (primarily mountain gorilla tourism) was the third highest source of foreign currency. Tourism brings in the money needed to promote conservation. Currently WCS and RDB are collaborating to rebuild infrastructure and facilities at Nyungwe. Tours and trails are being developed throughout Nyungwe to make the forest more accessible to tourists.
Long-term monitoring programs for mammals and birds have been underway for over five years. While bird populations have remained stable over the years, large mammal populations have greatly decreased since the late 1990s. Ranger based monitoring is now underway and other organizations also maintain research programs in Nyungwe. All projects have aided in the conservation of the biodiversity and health of the Nyungwe forest.
Conservation cannot succeed unless the people who live in the area support the conservation efforts. In order to get the community surrounding and within Nyungwe involved in forest conservation, WCS has developed a program that educates and dialogues with leaders within the community, as well as adults and children. From holding community meetings to leading school programs, WCS is working directly with the communities surrounding Nyungwe.
WCS and PCFN have a strong relationship with the University of Rwanda (formerly called the National University of Rwanda) and other institutions in Rwanda, and hopes to develop more research collaborations in which students and researchers are using Nyungwe in their studies. In addition to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and PCFN, several other organizations work to contribute to conservation of Nyungwe National Park. Rwanda Development Board (RDB) maintains offices headed by the Park Warden, located at Kitabi and at Gisakura. Kitabi College for Conservation and Environmental Management is an academic institution operating under the Rwanda Development Board working on conservation and environmental management projects within the park and the greater Albertine Rift Region. University of Rwanda, Departments of Biology, Geography, and Social Science, among others, have had faculty and students conducting research and internships in the forest.
Biocorp Rwanda is a cooperative composed by people committed in hygiene and sanitation, environmental management, protection and conservation for sustainable development, working on conservation projects in Nyungwe. http://biocooprw.weebly.com/index.html