Protecting Rwanda’s forests and wildlife requires the understanding, assistance and stewardship of local communities, visitors and future generations. WCS is committed to ensuring that all people who live outside Rwanda’s National Parks, or derive their living from the forest, know the value of Rwanda’s natural resources and how to care for them.
Why do we do it?
There are many people who live in close quarters just outside Nyungwe National Park. In fact, population densities around Nyungwe National Park are on average 500 people per square kilometer! Communities around the park are also among the poorest in Rwanda, and they often rely on resources illegally extracted from the park to make a living or feed their family. Continuous pressure and harvesting from the forest threatens the park’s incredible biodiversity, as well as local community well being. In fact, Nyungwe provides a number of valuable services to local communities, including clean water,erosion and flood prevention, climate regulation, and revenue generation (through tourism). Raising citizen awareness and enlisting the cooperation of local communities is vital to protecting the park and its wildlife and securing livelihood and economic benefits for local communities.
How do we do it?
The Conservation Education and Outreach program targets several separate groups of stakeholders, including: local educators, students, and community members. The program aims to make local communities aware of the park’s value to the surrounding local economy, and to enlist community assistance in identifying and preventing threats to conservation. In 2011, WCS and its partners conducted a baseline survey to map local attitudes, knowledge and behaviors across the different community groups. From the baseline survey, WCS developed educational materials, training programs, and school activities tailored to each stakeholder group.
What have we achieved?
- Since working in Nyungwe National Park, WCS and its partners have developed conservation education materials, including posters, films, books, and playing cards, that have been used in schools in communities around Nyungwe, serving over 20,000 students. Together with teachers, students, community members and park wardens, WCS has also designed education programs that incorporate conservation lessons within drama productions, games and park visits and are currently being implemented in local schools.
- Working in education, WCS and its partners have trained local teachers, District Environmental Officers, and ANICOs in environmental issues and techniques in districts surrounding Nyungwe National Park.
- To raise awareness about conservation, WCS has brought local students, teachers, ANICOs and local authorities into the park to explain the value of the park and how to protect it. These visits were designed to improve local residents’ familiarity with the ecology and biodiversity of the park, and to help them understand both the value of the park and the key dangers that threaten it
- Working with the park community wardens, WCS supports a network of 54community liaison officers (ANICOs), one in each cell bordering the park. Each officer has been trained to mediate conflicts around the park, assist local residents file for governmental compensation for crops damaged by animals or insects from the park, identify illegal activities in the park originating in their communities, and to improve communication between conservation officials and local communities.
- In 2013, WCS piloted “AHAJISHE IGISABO” (Worthy of Protection), a radio serial drama written and produced by Charles Lwanga Rukundo, with assistance from Media Impact and RDB. The drama weaves together educational information on chimpanzees in a compelling and entertaining story. Each episode is followed by a radio program, during which guests are invited and interviewed, the audience is able to call and comment and ask questions about the story, discuss issues presented within the drama (including park protection and regulations, wildlife threats and tourism revenues), engage in radio competitions and listen to interviews aimed at raising knowledge of and support for the protection of Nyungwe National Park.