Wilderness Safaris and Forest of Hope Association – Gishwati Reforestation Programme Update

As part of their conservation programme for the Gishwati sector of the Gishwati-Mukura National Park (GMNP), Wilderness Safaris (WS) and Forest of Hope Association (FHA) worked together to set up a nursery, which now contains almost 10 000 indigenous trees that will be planted before the end of the year.

The reforestation programme commenced at the beginning of this year, when WS and FHA developed a nursery just outside of Gishwati Forest. Seeds were planted and nurtured by the newly appointed FHA agronomist, Beatrice Nyiransabimana. Beatrice has already managed to successfully grow 9 544 indigenous tree saplings that are now ready for planting during November and December. The last months of the year fall into the rainy season in Rwanda, and are referred to by many locals as ‘the planting season’.

Accordingly, on Tuesday 3 November the FHA and surrounding community organised a special Umuganda. The word can be translated as ‘coming together with a common purpose to achieve an outcome’. In traditional Rwandan culture, members of the community would call upon their family, friends and neighbours to help them complete a task. The purpose of the Umuganda at Gishwati this week was to plant many trees in order to assist with the reforestation of the 10 ha of land that Wilderness Safaris purchased in order to expand Gishwati Forest. During this special Umuganda, 83 community members planted 770 trees. In the coming weeks Beatrice, with the assistance of WS and FHA, will continue planting all the remaining indigenous trees that she has prepared in her nursery.

As soon as the nursery is empty, Beatrice will start growing new seedlings for the next planting season.

In the nursery a selection of the following indigenous trees is available: Ficus sp, Symphonia globilifera, Maesopsis eminii, Xymalos monospora, Albizia adianthifolia, Strombosia scheffleri, Maesa lanceolata, Myrianthus holstii, Carapa grandiflora, Markhamia luthea, Polyscias fulva and Croton megalocarpus. All these trees are originally found in Gishwati Forest and will contribute to the restoration of habitat for the bird- and wildlife.

“Gishwati Forest has suffered a 98% reduction in size and forest cover since the 1970s.  This has resulted in environmental degradation, with landslides, erosion, loss of biodiversity, flooding and silted rivers, which impact the downstream hydro plants and increase local poverty. Many mammal and other species, which were found here previously, no longer occur. To be able to give back to this forest by planting native species and assisting the protection of the chimpanzee, golden monkey and mountain monkey populations is vitally important. This is just the start, and we plan to increase our positive impact in the years to come”, concludes Rob Baas, Wilderness Safaris Rwanda MD.

Beatrice Nyiransabimana was born in 1991 in Rwambeho, a small village situated very close to Gishwati Forest and the Forest of Hope Guest House and Camp Site. She attended the local primary school and being one of the best-scoring students could continue on to secondary school. She passed all her exams and graduated from secondary school – one of the few girls in her village to achieve this. When asked, Beatrice said she only knows of five girls in the village who have graduated from secondary school.

Being employed at Forest of Hope as the agronomist is an exciting opportunity for Beatrice. “I like learning new things and to see the seedlings grow. My wish is to walk in a bigger forest, with trees planted from our nursery”, she says. Having this job makes her very proud, as she sees it as a way to assist the environment and the community. Most of the people in the community support Beatrice and are happy for her.

“Even though some say agronomist should be the job for a man, I am showing them a woman can do it too”, notes Beatrice.

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