PARTNERS FOR CONSERVATION officially launched “Improving Marginalized People’s Initiatives for Biodiversity Conservation: Case of Women Conserving the Volcanoes National Park through Weaving” project
The project called “Improving Marginalized People’s Initiatives for Biodiversity Conservation: Case of Women Conserving the Volcanoes National Park through Weaving”, is a Rufford Small Grants funded project implemented by Partners for Conservation. It aims at contributing to the mitigation of human pressure on Volcanoes National park by engaging women in income generating activities through weaving. The project targets 33 women, Historically Marginalized People, from Muhingo cell, Shingiro Sector of Musanze District in Northern Province of Rwanda. According to many sources, members of this group have been identified as a major threat to the conservation of the park resources, either as forest dwellers or fruit gatherers. At the end of the project, the targeted women will be equipped with knowledge and skills in the area of modern weaving which later will help them to improve their living conditions without relying on park resources.
Shingiro is one of sectors surrounding the Volcanoes National Park with a high population density, estimated at 600 people per km2, mainly skewed towards younger age group, with a total population of 20,856 ( Community Based Natural Resources Management, CBNRM-2006), including less than 300 Historically Marginalized People (The Gorilla Organization, TGO 2011). Agriculture constitutes 90% of primary livelihood. Land ownership is roughly estimated between 0.2 to 0.8ha per family in other communities whereas it’s nil in marginalized families (CBNRM). Historically Marginalised People are per the Rwandan Constitution indigenous, forest-dwelling inhabitants of Rwanda referred to “pygmies”, which reflects their societal status. Evicted from the forest without any compensation during the creation of the park, they lost their traditional way of living. This has left them the poorest communities which; 52% of their households depend on park resources to survive compared to 18% in other communities (CBNRM).
As per the project work plan, on March 28th, 2017 Partners for Conservation proceeded to the project introduction to both local authorities and beneficiaries. The event was held at the HQ of Muhingo Cell, in Shingiro Sector and officiated by the Executive Secretary of the cell Madam Claudine NDIMUBANZI.
In his introductory speech, Emmanuel BUGINGO, Executive Director and Founder of Partners for Conservation talked about the genesis of the project. It is complementary to what Partners for Conservation and the Community Based Organization (CBO) Dusabane have been doing together to help marginalized women from that CBO. With the aim of ensuring the reduction of human pressure on the VNP, the women are provided with knowledge and skills in weaving so that they can improve their economic capacities and live independently from the park resources. He presented the different stages of the project and responsible entities and personalities from the park management to beneficiaries through local authority and PFC staff. He also thanked the Rufford Foundation that they accepted to fund such initiative and reiterated that the project success relies on every stakeholder’s full involvement.
During the three months of intensive training, the women will learn about modern basket weaving
On behalf of the project beneficiaries, Alphonsine MUKANYINDO, Dusabane Chairperson thanked Partners for Conservation for its tireless efforts to help marginalised and vulnerable people in the surroundings of the gorilla habitat. She briefly highlighted the past experience with PfC: “We’ve been farming, doing some livestock and learning to read and write and now here’s weaving”. She hailed the anticipated contribution of this project in a country where tourism spinoffs industry is considerably growing. She stated that the project is not only about economic growth of vulnerable and marginalised women as it’s also about empowering women with enough knowledge and skills to be part of the solutions to various crisis the world is now days facing, including conservation. She reiterated a full collaboration for a successful project.
Madam Claudine NDIMUBANZI, the Executive Secretary of the Muhingo Cell, recalled that the Government of Rwanda, under the 2020 vision and Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy II, calls for skill development to boost the nation’s economy. According to her, such project is welcomed as it frames well the nation’s vision. She expressed her gratitude towards Partners for Conservation and Rufford Foundation for their commitment to help the country meet its goals.
The rise in weaving amongst local people is listed as a threat to the biodiversity conservation and protection as people rely on raw materials from the park resources mainly bamboo – which is food of the gorillas. To mitigate this issue, the project proposes to educate women to use and produce alternative raw materials such as sisals. They will also be empowered with skills to negotiate and build partnership with other Community Based Organizations to acquire raw materials difficult to produce within the area.
Despite the recent and considerable population growth, the mountain gorilla remains threatened to extinction and in 2008 they were listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red list and are dependent on conservation efforts to survive. (UCN Red list, 2008). The credit goes to a number of efforts by individuals and consortium initiated to support conservation interventions as well as adaptive policies.
The project duration is of one year but it’s anticipated that the trained members will expand the training to fellow women members of the community. After a 3 months intensive training, women will start weaving for the market while training fellow women from their neighbourhood at least 2 new women, should be trained per each women, who participated in the project.