Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda is one of Africa’s largest remaining tropical montane forests and represents a biological refuge for 47 local endemic species as well as 217 species endemic to the Albertine Rift (Fischer and Killman 2008). But Rwanda las long faced challenges in protecting its precious and globally unique ecosystem—only 5.2% of natural forest cover remains (Rwanda Ministry of Environment 2019). Rwanda’s is the second most densely populated country in Africa, and 83% live rurally, dependent on smallholder farming and exotic tree plantations for their livelihoods (World Bank 2020). This extreme land pressure makes forest restoration in the region rare but critically important. Over the course of 10 weeks, we will assess a 10-hectare forest restoration plot, owned and stewarded by NGO Kageno, on the edge of Nyungwe Forest National Park. Kageno’s model, which addresses health, education, conservation, and income generation in tandem, seeks to improve quality of life while reducing resource conflict with neighboring Nyungwe in one of Rwanda’s most remote yet densely-populated communities. Our work with Kageno integrates an original site assessment and biodiversity survey with existing knowledge of tropical montane forest dynamics, and ongoing research on restoration. The assessment and management plan we develop for Kageno’s 10-ha plot will proved a road map for native species and biodiversity restoration and support Kageno’s future ecotourism operation on the plot. Additionally, we will help to strengthen Rwanda’s emerging natural reforestation network, through collaboration with the Wilderness Conservation Society’s restoration efforts, and representation at the 2022 IUCN African Protected Areas Conference.
This project is in collaboration with Grace Bachmann, MF.