The Volcanoes Biosphere Reserve (VBR) periodic review report
A three days validation workshop on the volcanoes biosphere periodic review report was held at Hotel Gorilla in Musanze district from 8th to 10th May 2017. This workshop brings together different partners, national and international working in the field of tourism, environmental conservation, management of Rwanda national parks, representatives of civil society and representatives of beneficiaries community. There was also one expert from UNESCO - Paris, Mrs Noeline Raondry Rakotoarisoa, Chief of Section, MAB Networking: Biosphere Reserves and Capacity Building. She makes presentations on MAB Programme, AfriMAB and WNBRs (World Network of Biosphere Reserves) Programmes.
 
The Volcanoes Biosphere Reserve Periodic Review was the first one to be prepared and to be presented to MAB ICC Secretariat since 1983 when the volcanoes BR was registered as one of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves Network.
 
Participants to the validation workshop taking a souvenir photo at Gorilla Hotel in Musanze.
 
After sensitization and the revenue sharing policy initiated by the Rwandan authorities, there are no poachers in the Volcanoes Biosphere Reserve. Before women and men were entering the park to fetch water, to kill animals to get meat, to cut bamboos and trees for fire, etc.
 
Participants visiting the “transitional zone” and one of the initiatives of the surrounding communities to benefit from the VBR conservations.
 
All the poachers and the community around the Volcanoes Biosphere Reserve (VBR) have been organized in cooperatives and Associations like SACOLA (Sabyinyo Community Livelihood Association). The SACOLA has put in place a powerful committee to coordinate the SABYINYO SILVERBACK LODGE, a Kinigi Complex Hotel (belonging to the local population). Sacola has become a powerful and active partner for the government in the conservation initiative of the Volcanoes Biosphere Reserve. The SACOLA Hotel can generate around 20 to 30 million Rwandan francs per month and this amount is used to ameliorate the livelihood of the surrounding population in Nyange and Kinigi sectors. SACOLA tickets have been established and a certain amount of money is withdrawed from the total amount paid by each visitor entering the Volcano National Park and this has contributed a lot in the improvement of the population livelihood: Schools classes, health centers, computer labs in schools, houses for the poor families and genocide survivors have been constructed; medical insurance provided to 3000 poor families in the area, around 600 cows have been distributed by SACOLA, supporting the government program of “Gira inka munyarwanda”, roads have been constructed and maintained. Chickens projects have been financed and eggs are bought by the Silver back lodge. 70% of the Lodge personnel are from the local population.
 
This SACOLA assured the participants to the workshop that the mindset of the population has changed for good vis-a-vis the conservation of the park. The SACOLA representatives give an example of one antelope which comes out of the Virunga National Park area one day and find itself in the village. With fear it get into a house and stayed there. The local population called the RDB guides and the rangers to come and take the antelope back to the park.
 
Participants with the managers of Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
 
There is no illegal intrusion in the VNP, different cooperatives are participating in the construction of the stone wall which constitute the buffer zone between the core and transition areas.
 
Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa posing with the couple who is managing the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Kinigi
 
Former poachers converted in culture guardians. They show to the tourists how Rwandans used to get metal war materials and tools from iron.
 
Those young men are playing the Gisoro game,a traditional game for men at the Gorilla Guardians village.
 
After the field visit, Mrs. Noeline Raondry Rakotoarisoa tells the journalists that what she has seen here is very interesting and can be considered as a best practice to be applied in other countries within the WNBRs.” It is an excellent example of such kind of project. The people need money and the money generated by the tourism in VBR is used to support this community projects”, she added. It is a live example where biosphere can be protected for the benefit of men.
 
Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa, DG Mineduc and Vice Chairperson of CNRU’s General Assembly making her remarks at the closing session.
 
During the closing ceremony, Dr. Marie Christine Gasingirwa congratulated everyone for the fruitful discussions and inputs made to the report. She noticed that we have to bring on board our children and initiate them to the biosphere conservation because they are here today and they are the leaders of tomorrow. We have to ensure that continuity, she added.
 
The volcanoes Biosphere Reserve has been registered as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1983. From that period, no periodic review, which is supposed to be done every ten years, has been sent to UNESCO. This is the first one of its kind.
 
Philomene MUKANKUSI
Director of Information and Communication/CNRU

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