Thursday, 14 November 2013

Gishwati woodland, the richest forest in Rwanda


The Gishwati farms for cattle grazing/keeping

Despite the threats Gishwati forest has faced over the years especially environmental degradation, erosion and land sliding that destroyed people’s homes and crops, Gishwati stands as  the richest forest in Rwanda.

Nyabihu District locals and the District administration have worked hard with concerned Ministries and various organizations   in conserving Gishwati forest that has made it a historical and touristic area in the country.

Gishwati is a natural forest that covers about 250,000 km2. This forest nearly got completely depleted due to large scale cattle ranching and refugee resettlement of people who returned to Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis.

By 2001, only 1500 acres of the original 250,000 remained.

Nyabihu district being hilly and mountainous, there was an increase of landslides and eroding that the area became risky and dangerous.

Gishwati woodland1

A view of the cattle ranches in Gishwati Forest  

With the effects of environmental degradation becoming so fierce, in 2007, President Kagame and the Great Ape Trust chose Gishwati as the new national park and launched the Gishwati Area Conservation Program (GACP).

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The terraces are so productive for crop farming

Permanent strategies to conserve the Gishwati forest were put in place; the area was then divided into 3 parts. One part is for farming, the other is for animal rearing and the 3rd area was to be conserved.

The place for crop farming was made in terraces and crops like Irish potatoes, maize and beans are grown in the terraces. This area is so productive and through the making of terraces, soil erosion has been stopped.

Further, cattle rearing are at the peak in Gishwati. People were evacuated to safer places, the once a dangerous and High Risk Zones of Gishwati are now the most beautiful areas of Nyabihu district.

In 2011, GACP started a tourism program in the forest part of Gishwati, trees have increasingly been planted, and the Trust reports that 20 chimpanzees have been identified in the area.

The Forest now comprises 3,665 acres.  The program offers guided hikes and visits with handicrafts producers, traditional healers and beekeeping benefiting from the booming tourism.

Gishwati is being reforested as part of Rwanda’s policy of active reforestation aiming to have 30 percent of the country covered in forests by 2020.

To achieve this, the Ministry of Forests and Natural Resources has embarked on a massive tree planting effort with over 67 million tree seedlings to be planted this year.

Gishwati woodland, the richest forest in Rwanda


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