Planning for the future of Rwanda’s flagship protected areas


Volcanoes NPWestern Rwanda is traversed by the Albertine Rift, a unique eco-region that is Africa’s richest and one of the world’s most significant in terms of species diversity and endemism. Two of Rwanda’s flagship protected areas – Nyungwe National Park (NNP) and Volcanoes National Park (VNP) – are found within the Albertine Rift and cover globally important afro-montane forest ecosystems. However, despite their exceptional biodiversity values – which in the case of VNP includes a critical population of the endangered Mountain gorilla – as well as the vital ecosystem services they offer, both parks are located in extremely densely populated areas and are subject to a variety of escalating human-induced pressures. Both areas have also suffered from major habitat degradation and loss of wildlife during the violent conflict that affected Rwanda in the 1990s.

In this context, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) provided funding through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the implementation of the Strengthening Biodiversity Conservation Capacity in the Forest Protected Area System of Rwanda (PAB) Project (2006-2012). Through the PAB Project Management Unit at the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), and in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Tourism & Conservation Department, the PAB Project supported the development of 10-year general management plans for both the NNP and VNP, providing a roadmap for building a sustainable future for these globally important protected areas.

Our contribution

Nyungwe NP community enterpriseBased on our extensive experience in developing several national park management plans across East Africa over the past decade, CDC was recruited by REMA to provide technical support to RDB, the agency in charge of Rwanda’s protected area network, for the development of the new NNP and VNP 10-year (2012-2021) general management plans. CDC’s role included the facilitation of all stakeholder planning events as well as the development of the general management plans’ management programmes and zonation schemes.

The process used to develop the new NNP and VNP management plans was largely based on the Kenya Wildlife Service’s Protected Areas Planning Framework (PAPF) previously developed with CDC’s technical support. The PAPF relies on participatory, stakeholder-driven planning in order to ensure that all key stakeholders understand and support the plan’s implementation, and that its management aims are realistic and appropriate at every level. The participatory nature of the planning process ensured that the new plans represent the key stakeholders’ consensus viewpoint on how to optimise the conservation of unique and internationally-important habitats and biodiversity. Over the next decade, the NNP and VNP management plans will serve as the basis for the conservation of all components and processes of the two parks’ ecosystems, while sustainably managing the parks’ rapidly expanding ecotourism activities to maximise socio-economic benefits.


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