Rwanda officially has four parks. The newest is Gishwati -Mukura National Park after Nyungwe, Akagera and the Volcanoes National Parks. The law establishing the Gishwati-Mukura National Park was signed and gazetted on 01 February 2016.This law also determines its boundaries, surface and buffer zone.
According to the law, Gishwati-Mukura National Park is composed of the Gishwati Forest with an area of 1,439.72 hectares and Mukura Forest with a total surface of 1,987.74 hectares. The park’s buffer zone has a total surface of 992.48 hectares.
Initially, the Gishwati-Mukura reserve was estimated to cover 250,000 ha before it reduced to 28,000 ha in 1980s due mainly to uncontrolled human activities such as illegal mining, animal grazing and tree cutting, among other threats. Over the past decades, the Gishwati-Mukura area was nearly depleted due largely to resettlement, livestock farming and small farming in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Today, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) through its project called “Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation (LAFREC) project” is working to restore the highly degraded Gishwati-Mukura landscape to enhance both environmental & economic benefits from both forests.
Activities to restore the Gishwati-Mukura landscape include rehabilitating natural forest and biodiversity within the Gishwati and Mukura reserves, enhancing sustainable land management in the agricultural lands between both forests and introducing silvo-pastoral approaches in the rangelands of the central former Gishwati reserve.
Gishwati-Mukura Park is known for a wide range of flora and fauna, including primates, chimpanzees and mammals among others. It also boasts of about 60 species of trees, including indigenous hardwoods and bamboo.
As noted by the Director General of REMA, Dr. Rose Mukankomeje, upgrading Gishwati-Mukura forests to the status of a National Park will ensure that the remaining part of the natural forests is fully protected.
Dr. Mukankomeje also affirms that “the new park will contribute to improving the livelihoods of population living in the surrounding areas as they will get off-farm jobs such as working in hotels and restaurants to be established near the park, becoming guides for tourists and selling craft products to different people coming to visit the park.”
"In addition, implementation of LAFREC activities within the park boundaries and its landscape will create hundreds of jobs for local communities, giving them an opportunity to diversify their sources of income and eventually improve their living conditions," Dr. Mukankomeje added.
Residents around Mukura – Gishwati National Park welcome its establishment. They also assert that the new park equals to richness as they are promising to build good relations with daily visitors.
The Gishwati-Mukura National Park is located in Rubavu, Rutsiro, Ngororero and Nyabihu Districts of the western part of Rwanda.
Read the law establishing the Gishwati -Mukura National Park here.