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Development project 15 of 16
Title
Supporting Indigenous Rwandan Communities
Location
Communities around the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Gorillas
Mountain gorillas
Local Partner:   AIMPO
Description

The indigenous Batwa of Rwanda are amongst the poorest communities living alongside the Volcanoes National Park, home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The Batwa traditionally lived as hunter-gatherers in the forests, which provided them with food and shelter, but when the national park was created the communities were evicted, leaving families homeless and without land. They have since faced acute poverty, and low levels of education, coupled with little knowledge of their rights, has resulted in a severe lack of confidence. Through a grassroots project that began in 2001, the Gorilla Organization and the African Indigenous and Minority Peoples Organisation (AIMPO) have been addressing the needs of these communities by securing agricultural land for them, providing training in organic farming techniques and health and social issues, and improving education standards through adult literacy training and schooling.

The overall objective of the project is to reduce the poverty faced by the Batwa, in turn lowering human pressure on the national park. The specific objectives are:

  • To train the Batwa in sustainable organic agriculture, enabling them to grow sufficient food for their subsistence needs, and surplus for sale to generate income and to store for future crops
  • To support education by enabling children to go to school and improving adult literacy
  • To improve the health and welfare of the communities
  • To empower them through training in management, leadership and human rights, and the development of community based organisations (CBOs)

 

The Gorilla Organization is very grateful to the European Commission for its support of this project.

The European flag — colour

Progress

To date, more than 30 hectares of land have been acquired for the Batwa and the communities have been learning and implementing basic farming techniques. Housing was constructed to improve their living conditions and the Batwa have been forming CBOs. In late 2007, the Gorilla Organization secured a grant from the European Commission to fund further CBO development, introduce sustainable, organic farming techniques and eventually extend the initiatives to further communities. Construction of a training centre has provided space for agricultural theory lessons, which the trainees then implement during practical sessions.

The methods being put into practice are already having a significant impact, dramatically enhancing crop yields, generating income and improving the health of the communities. Literacy training sessions are held twice a week, improving education standards and building confidence, and school attendance by all children is encouraged and supported. Social workers are educating the communities on health and hygiene issues, such as the importance of a balanced diet, further contributing to their overall wellbeing. Once initial training of the beneficiaries is complete they will begin to pass what they have learnt on to their fellow CBO members, thereby extending the impact of the project. During 2009, practical and theoretical agricultural training will continue with additional topics being addressed, while literacy training will also be maintained. Training in CBO and project development will further empower the communities and enable them to gradually take control of the project.

 

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