Rwanda’s Makura Forest Reserve
The Mukura Forest reserve is located within the Albertine Rift Region in Rwanda’s Western Province, within the Congo-Nile crest. It used to be part of a continuous mountain forest from Nyungwe to the Volcanos Park. Today, this ancient forest range with areas of endemic species in Africa and the world is split in four important protected areas in Rwanda from south to north: the Nyungwe, Mukura and Gishwati forests and the Volcano Park.
Mukura Forest’s mean annual temperature is 15 °C, the average altitude: 2600 m.a.s.l and the mean annual rainfall is 1500 mm. As the relief is very accidented and the tree cover very low, there is a high risk of soil erosion and thereby land degradation.
Mukura Forest has reserve status since 1951: it then covered 3000 ha. Until today about 50% of the forest’s surface are lost due to deforestation, paralleled with high loss of biodiversity (highly disturbed). Currently, 1600 ha are left.
This amounts to an alarming situation which arose for several reasons. The population pressure is high: up to 600 inhabitants per km2; This aggravates deforestation and consequently erosion. The level of poverty is high: the monthly income of households is 3 US$ and there is a high vulnerability of children (20% are not going to school). Finally, the current climate variations are increasing the stress on the natural resources which are already overused by the local communities
In this difficult situation the local organisation ARECO-RWANDA NZIZA (Association Rwandaise des Ecologistes), whose national coordiantor is Ms Dancilla Mukakamari, is engaged in several projects aimed at saving the precious rudiments of Mukura Forest to:
- raise awarness of the local population and schools for sustainable conservation of Mukura Forest reserve
- promote community based conservation and
- elaborate a Mukura Forest Management Plan
- organize workshops e.g. together with REMA (Rwanda Environment Management Authority)
- support women in agroforestry and fruit trees production.
Main lessons learnt so far :
- Working with local communities especially women, youth and schools is a key way of sustainable biodiversity conservation and secure livelihoods;
- Secure livelihoods promotion is a key condition for sustainable conservation;