We estimate that 310 km2 are cultivated today in the Virunga National Park. This is due to the war that has also caused many other problems in the region. Moreover, no salary has been paid to the ICCN staff in the park for 75 months and the population around the park is very poor due to the war. The people know about the importance of the park but so far they have not received any profit from it.
In order to encourage people to stop farming within the park, our project (Peace Parks in the Great Lakes) is trying to arrange a dialogue between the park staff and the population, who must be involved and considered in conservation. Recently, our project led a meeting in Nairobi where all the principal stakeholders decided to be partners and define activities that will be conducted in synergy. After Nairobi, PPP (Peace Parks Project), the WWF project (PEVi - Programme Environnemental autour des Virunga), the leader of the Virunga National Park's South Sector and local chiefs organized 3 days of sensitization. The aim was to convince people to stop farming park land and to find out how a permanent dialogue with them can be maintained. The results were encouraging. The population stopped farming the 1.5 km2 that had been cultivated recently. Activities like this must be encouraged and funds must be found.
When the park staff approached the people, they agreed to stop farming the land - however, they also described the difficulties that they have to survive. They hope that the park and its partners will fund some small projects to improve their welfare. We will work on this during the next months.
The overall objective of PPP is to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity during armed conflicts by setting up a network of protected areas for peace and contributing towards the improvement of welfare of the affected populations in the Great Lakes countries. We are planning to fund small projects for the local population, the delimitation of Virunga National Park with the local population and park staff, sensitization on television and radio and we want to establish a warning system for the conservation of the national park. Our project is still in its initial phase and we do not have enough funds. We would be grateful if some generous people or organization could help us because we have to deal with enormous problems.Claude Sikubwabo Kiyengo
With funding from the Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe, a meeting on the conservation of the Sarambwe Forest was held in June between all organisations working in the area, government representatives, representatives of the local population and the traditional chiefs. The meeting was organized by the local NGO VONA (La voix de la nature) and the ICCN. Its goal was to identify the conservation problems in the Sarambwe area and to develop joint solutions.
Many organisations are concerned with the protection of the Sarambwe Forest, for example: The ICCN sent rangers to the protection of Sarambwe in 1998. ICCN and IGCP (International Gorilla Conservation Programme) work together as partners to fund the conservation activities in Sarambwe: The costs of the office of the Domaine de chasse de Rutshuru and the food supplies of the ranger patrols. This permits the rangers of Sarambwe to conduct patrols and meet with the rangers of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park accross the border to Uganda. The organisation AJAKAR works for the reforestation of the disturbed parts of the Sarambwe area. The governmental authority EPF has given permits for wood exploitation to the population but stopped this in 1996. Meanwhile, the Mwami (king) of Bwisha found an area where the people who had cultivated fields in the Sarambwe area could settle.
In 1998, a Sarambwe working committee was founded by those authorities and organisations. However, this committee has not functioned correctly so far as it did not have a program and support.
The local population considers the following problems as the most important ones in Sarambwe:
Severe deforestation poses the greatest threat to the Sarambwe Forest. In order to improve the conservation of the Sarambwe Forest it was decided to increase public awareness activities, to involve the local population in decision-making and to support developmental aid projects around the forest. The forest boundaries are to be demarcated as soon as possible and the resettlement of families still living inside the forest is to be supported. Moreover, adjacent villages will start reforestation measures shortly.
Claude Sikubwabo Kiyengo
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