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 Office de Tourisme et Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN) to mitigate the major threats of fires and mining. PCFN and ORTPN focus their conservation efforts in five areas: Law Enforcement, Tourism, Monitoring and Research, Community Conservation, and Capacity Building. The following is synopsized 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 ORTPN 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 ORTPN 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.
Monitoring and Research
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 of 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.
Capacity building of local and national institutions
WCS and PCFN have a strong relationship with the National University of Rwanda and the Agricultural Research Institute, and hopes to develop more research collaborations in which students and researchers are using Nyungwe in their studies.