Since 2012, the Forest of Hope Association (FHA) has been working to conserve the Gishwati-Mukura National Park (GMNP) in Rwanda. This park, which is an Eastern Afromontane Key Biodiversity Area, has experienced a long period of degradation due to human encroachment, particularly in the Gishwati forest, the northern part of the Park. For instance, the core forest of Gishwati has seen a reduction in size from 700 km² in the 1930s to 6 km² in 2002. Thanks to collaborative conservation efforts, and partly funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund ( CEPF), Gishwati forest is now growing again and currently covers over 15.7 km².
Gishwati forest is home to a number of threatened speciesm including the eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii, Endangered), golden monkey (Cercopithecus mitis kandti, Endangered), mountain monkeys (, Vulnerable), and more than 100 species of birds including 16 (or, as more recent surveys indicated, 20) that are endemic to the Albertine Rift. There has also been an – as yet unconfirmed – sighting of the Endangered Grauer’s swamp warbler (Bradypterus graueri), which would be a first for the KBA…
Despite efforts taken by the government of Rwanda, Forest of Hope Association and others to conserve the Gishwati forest, illegal mining inside the forest continued. This led to a degradation of pristine habitat through the digging of mining bore holes, cutting down of trees, destruction of vegetation, and the release of harmful sediments into the forest streams and rivers.
FHA initiated forest patrols and community involvement, which have helped to decrease the occurrence of these illegal mining activities. Through this programme, 18 former illegal miners were identified and have been employed by local legal mining companies. They now have a regular income and are no longer at risk to be arrested. In addition, five illegal mining pits inside the park were re-filled in a joint effort between FHA, the miners, and local community representatives during the monthly ‘ umuganda‘ volunteer work.
Besides the illegal mining inside the Park, there is also legal mining in the wider area. Mining companies such as DEMIKARU (Developpement Minier Kanama Rubavu), TMT (Tantalum Mineral Trading) and Munyaneza Mining Company Ltd have legally established concessions in the Gishwati landscape. For them, FHA produced an environmentally-friendly mining ” best practices guide “, a tool to promote biodiversity-friendly management practices. Local miners were trained in the application of these best practices, and are committed to adopt them in their everyday activities. As local miner Mathias Harerimana put it, when asked what he learnt after the training: “Now I have a tool that will help me to respect my commitment towards environmental protection that are included in my Environmental Impact Assessment. Through this training I fully understand that we need to change and use techniques that are both environmentally friendly and economically realistic. I believe this will make us benefit more.”
FHA continues to support mining companies to refill abondoned mining pits with soil, and re-vegetate the surface.
Miners are also being advised on how they can protect their soil dumping sites by constructing trenches to slow down, retain and channel runoff in less risk-prone zones, to prevent siltation and sedimentation. FHA, supported by the BirdLife regional implementation team (as part of their carbon offset programme) also provided indigenous tree seedlings to be planted in their concessions.
BirdLife International runs the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) investment in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot (2012 -2019). See the interactive map of all projects implemented under the CEPF Eastern Afromontane Hotspot programme The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on the CEPF can be found at
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