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Education project 4 of 4
Title
Volcanoes Wildlife Clubs
Location
Communities around the Volcanoes National Park
Gorillas
Mountain gorillas
Local Partner:   VWC/R - Volcanoes Wildlife Clubs/Rwanda
Description

In the densely populated communities living alongside the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, the majority of people earn a living through labour-intensive subsistence farming. The low productivity of this way of life has resulted in widespread poverty, and as a result, local people often encroach on the national parks for farmland or trespass to obtain resources such as firewood, threatening the survival of mountain gorillas. For gorillas and their habitat to have any viable long-term future, the communities that live nearby must learn to value their natural heritage, and in particular these apes. The schoolchildren of today are the farmers and conservationists of tomorrow, and fostering an understanding of environmental issues from an early age can change a nation’s conservation efforts. In light of this, the Gorilla Organization began working with local NGO Volcanoes Wildlife Clubs (VWC) in 2001 to establish and support wildlife clubs in schools around the gorilla habitat.

The overall objective of the project is to develop an environmental awareness within the communities surrounding the Volcanoes National Park and involve young people in conservation efforts. The specific objectives are: 

  • To support existing wildlife clubs and reactivate those that have stalled
  • To train teachers as wildlife club leaders through a series of workshops
  • To arrange seminars, excursions and competitions for wildlife club members and screen wildlife documentaries in schools
  • To develop the capacity of VWC

 

Progress

When the Gorilla Organization partnered with VWC in 2001, a total of 356 wildlife clubs were established in primary and secondary schools near the Volcanoes National Park. The project was initially funded by the European Commission as part of a wider programme that ran until 2004. After this time, the Gorilla Organization continued to support the project, albeit on a reduced budget, and while it has been difficult to maintain high levels of activity for all clubs, there are nevertheless still 255 existing wildlife clubs. Club leaders have formed local committees that function as support networks, and a regional committee that was subsequently set up has helped VWC to register as an NGO at district level.

Wildlife club activities include: planting trees and vegetables in school gardens; arts and crafts; music, drama and dance; discussions; and competitions. Members and club leaders are also given the opportunity to take part in excursions to the national park, where they gain first-hand experience of conservation in action. VWC newsletters, entitled La Voix de Gorille, are produced for wildlife club members, who also benefit from the screening of wildlife documentaries.

 

To maintain wildlife club activities, VWC will recruit a full-time coordinator to run the NGO with support from the field officer currently managing the project. The coordinator will continue visits to clubs to sustain momentum, provide advice, monitor activities and supply teaching materials. The existing leaders’ manual will be updated and distributed to clubs, both old and new, and a club leader training workshop will act as an introductory course for new club leaders and a refresher course for those still active. Continued publication of La Voix de Gorille will also benefit both members and leaders, while further wildlife documentary screenings, followed by discussions sessions, will enrich the members’ conservation education.

 

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