Local Communities around Nyungwe Forest National park include the towns, villages, and districts in which Nyungwe is found which harbors its natives. Nyungwe national park is surrounded by five Rwandan districts and shares a border with Burundi.
Local people come from all those districts surrounding Nyungwe and some of them have been engaged in illegal activities like poaching, cutting down trees, collecting woods, and herbs for traditional medicine, which were threats to the wildlife of Nyungwe. The Government of Rwanda in collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in the early 1980s initiated the buffer zone project. This project was in the purpose of preventing communities from collecting firewood in the Park. Collecting firewood from the Park was the biggest issue to be solved otherwise Nyungwe would be finished in those years. Later buffer zones were established followed by educating and showing people why not to go back in the forest but harvest from the buffer zone. Poachers and traditional beekeeping were the main reason for the fires in Nyungwe National park till now in Nyungwe places with only secondary forests are still there and yet some of those places were burnt more than one time.
Nowadays local people are the ones to protect and fight for the forest because they are benefiting from in their daily lives. Now Nyungwe national park is surrounded with a big number of local people cooperatives which are benefiting from Nyungwe forest like beekeeping cooperatives and other tourism entities such as Cultural villages but before they were in living in a high level of poverty. Nyungwe National Park is now offering communities jobs in terms of trails making and renovating. Other chances are like, when research is being carried out in Nyungwe, they will always engage local communities to educated youth & help researchers in their movement in the Park because they are the ones who really know parks’ all sides than anyone does. Schools for tourism were established in the area such as IPRC Kitabi which used to be the College of conservation and Environmental management. These all were in plan of developing areas around Nyungwe.
In the back years, the Government of Rwanda decided to offer all the 5% of all park’s revenue from the three national parks (plus the newest one that is opening soon). So this revenue till now is shared with all communities around National parks of Rwanda including these ones of Nyugwe National park. The revenue is shared in hands but they split it into communities projects based on tourism; including basic infrastructures such as tarmac roads, hospitals, schools, water sanitation, and electricity. Really government of Rwanda has done too many things to make the local communities around Nyungwe national park live better lives and let them know all that is benefit from keeping Nyungwe safe, protected and preserved.
Local communities have been playing a great role in the conservation and the preservation level that Nyungwe is on today. As we know conservation and preservation to be achieved, there must be involvement of the local communities in the implementation, planning of each process of the projects and their interest must be visible in all activities as well. The poachers after involving in the projects that benefited them, they gave up hunting, miners who were destroying the park’s wildlife and soil thus soil erosion took place in bare places due to mining, all of them involved in projects that benefited them freely without harming the forest again. Everyone who used to commit illegal activities in Nyungwe national park is no longer doing so, but they have become the eyes of the park for law enforcement. Now if they see you doing what is not allowed, you are in danger and they might inform Nyungwe park management.
Good news is that people who used to be threats to the Park are now serving, fighting and protecting the Park in the win-win situations, and are now aware of what are the environmental services Nyungwe offers them. And are now standing in the position of conserving and protecting the environment and Nyungwe forest at large.