RWANDA, BURUNDI NEGOTIATE ABOUT CONSERVATION
Rwanda and Burundi have agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding giving way to mutual protection of two major national parks. The MoU was signed in Rwanda recently by the director general of Rwanda Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), Ms. Rosette Rugamba and the director of Burundi National Institute for Nature and Environmental Conservation (INECN), Mr. Adelin Ntungumburanye.
The signing of the MoU is as a result of the collaboration idea conceived in 2005 by both Rwanda and Burundi to initiate joint transboundary protection to achieve sustainable conservation of the ecosystem in Nyungwe National Park of Rwanda and Kibira of Burundi.
Nyungwe National Park extends for 1,000 square Kilometers across the hills of South East Rwanda. The park has more than 200 different types of tree species and harbours close to 300 bird species. Kibira National Park is the largest untouched natural area in Burundi situated at the top of Apex DRC-Nile with its 40,000 hectares of preserved forest. It is home to wild life such as chimpanzees, baboons and monkeys.
Burundi, which is just rebuilding after a prolonged civil war has prioritized the tourism sector among other development, drives in the pipeline. Two weeks before, President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a tourism promotions drive to market the country as a major destination.
Technically, tourism has become East Africa's leading sector. In all the East African countries, tourism industry has contributed a lot to their development especially in community areas where tourism sites such as game reserves, national parks, ecotourism sites and historical sites are located. People in these communities benefit through selling arts and crafts to the tourists and also other hand made souvenirs which they take back to their countries. Tourists also carry out village walks in those neighbouring areas and do some developmental projects for example in Uganda, tourists usually opt to visit Bigodi area in Kibale National Park after the chimpanzee tracking activity, they also carry out village walks in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park after gorilla tracking and also other parks such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, Mgahinga national Park etc
Rwanda already has another MoU with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to protect the species and nature in the Albertine Rift. Ms. Rugamba said they are looking forward to the success of this collaboration and there is no turning back since there is commitment which is the most important aspect.
The understanding will see the two countries conserve biodiversity, natural resources and associated cultural values, research, monitoring and ecotourism. They will also lobby for planning and better management to reduce threats affecting the two national parks. The two bodies also agreed on rational sharing of resources and skills development for the sustainable conservation of both areas. The collaboration will also deal with common challenges to conservation including poaching which led to the extinction of buffalos and elephants, bamboo cutting, cattle movement, fires where 12% of the park has been burnt in the last 12 years, insecurity and poor infrastructure especially on the side of Burundi.
On the side of Rwanda, however, a lot of efforts and initiatives have been put in place to ensure Nyungwe National Park is protected and developed into an amusement park. Dubai World, an emerging investor in Rwanda is also putting up $3million tent-made lodges in the park to ensure accommodation in the park.The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in its Project named 'Destination Nyungwe' is setting up other two lodges. Nyungwe, which is Rwanda's largest natural forest, was transformed into a national park. Last year alone it was visited by 4,000 tourists who spent US$234,000.
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