During the rainy season, water moves quickly down the steep slopes of the Volcanoes and can cause gully erosion, flooding, and even landslides threatening lives, livelihoods and infrastructure in areas neighboring the Park.
IGCP under the Central Africa Forest Ecosystem Conservation (CAFEC) project works with the communities around Volcanoes National Park in the Kinigi Community Natural Resource Management Zone (the human zone neighboring Volcanoes National Park), to plant bamboo and Penisetum along ravines to suck the water and reduce its pressure, flow and the negative impact. In addition to bamboo, Alnus and Avocado are also planted in the gardens for agroforestry to serve several purposes at the same time – such as firewood for energy, food and a source of income as well as stabilizing the soil. The trees also support climbing crops such as beans to grow better.
Among other programs, CAFEC supports law enforcement to reduce threats to biodiversity, building the capacity of park managers and local communities, and also supports land use planning and climate change adaptation and mitigation. The project works with communities surrounding the Volcanoes National Park, CBOs involved in conservation work and already working around the Park e.g. ex poachers and bee keepers’ cooperatives, local artisans and energy-efficient stove makers. These people have also been participating in the production of land use maps at the cell level (smallest administrative unit). They have been sensitized and educated on land use planning, the importance of tree planting, climate change factors, potential impact and how to mitigate it.
The project also works with local leaders and local government officials in charge of agriculture and agroforestry to monitor the planted trees and implement the land use plans.
Since its inception in 2009, a number of results have been realized from the several actions undertaken; For example between 2014 and 2015, a total of 190,269 trees have been planted in 9 sectors around Volcanoes National Park, they include; 9,200 Bamboo, 15208 Avocado (seedlings), 160861 Alnus, and 5000 Penisetum (seedlings).
According to Benjamin Mugabukomeye, the project focal person and Rwanda Country Coordinator for the IGCP, the planted seedlings like the bamboos are growing well. “The bamboo planted is doing well and we are hopeful that they will mitigate soil erosion in the area. The avocado too are promising to give a good harvest to the gardeners. This will definitely increase household nutrition and potentially incomes, improving livelihoods” reveals Mugabukomeye. He adds that the community appreciates the avocado trees more than any other species for agroforestry because they meet more than one need- food, income and firewood.
At the same time, eleven (11) land use planning maps for 11 cells were updated and are ready for use by the local leaders. Rwanda as a country, and especially Volcanoes National Park is faced with high population density and limited space for agriculture. This challenge calls for better planning for land use, and the CAFEC project enhances the implementation of national land use plans; hence, the CAFEC project helps in updating land maps at local level that show the local leaders how land is utilized in their communities, informing plans.
Increased women’s knowledge on and participation in conservation has also been registered. Benjamin believes that when more women are involved, the success, ownership and sustainability of the project is more secured because women are most directly implicated and impacted on, in terms of food and income security. He adds that women too, most often exhibit great commitment and responsibility in communal projects, and provide good input in the project design.
Commenting on the sustainability of the project Benjamin says, “given the potential negative impact of a changing climate in our region, and current positive and promising results from interventions so far undertaken, it is important that a long term strategy for climate change mitigation be put in place by the government and different development/conservation partners to ensure that the appropriate mitigation measures can outpace the impacts of climate change”
For more information on climate change and mountain gorillas from IGCP coalition member WWF, see worldwildlife.org/pages/mountain-gorillas-and-climate-change