Nyungwe National Park has been making headlines over the last two years for good reasons. As one of Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest, Nyungwe is also amongst Africa oldest forests and cover more than 1000 km2 of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, and bogs. During the last Ice Age, Nyungwe was one of the few places on the African continent that remained green according to scientists. It is believed that this is one of the reasons why this forest engorges a large variety of plants, animals and habitats that are not easy to find somewhere else.
Forests are vital to our well-being as they provide oxygen and are home to humans as well as to wildlife. However, our planet has been under deforestation threat over the last century at an alarming rate. According to the World Wildlife * WWF*, some 46-58 million square miles of forest are lost each year—equivalent to 36 football fields every minute. This sounds exaggerated but it is a fact we have at hands and that need to be addressed to mitigate climate change. Deforestation is critical in tropical rainforests because they are home to much of the world’s biodiversity. Nyungwe National park is one of rainforests found in tropical areas and is home to a variety of ecosystem.
Luckily for Nyungwe, this rainforest is being taken care of to the point that there is more hope than worries in preserving its biodiversity. Located in the southwestern parts of Rwanda, Nyungwe became a national park in 2004 and has become one of tourist’s attractions in Rwanda. As the land of thousands hills is transforming itself into an emerging tourist destination, a new project dubbed “ Nyungwe nziza” seeks to develop the tourism potentiality of this rainforest. In addition to this, the project aims to focus on inclusive tourism for the benefit of local communities surrounding the park. This is a positive sign of this conservation effort as it takes into account communities surrounding the park. A failure to include them would have increased the number of poachers a move that would negatively impact of the success of this project.
All the efforts geared at conserving the biodiversity of this park are highly regarded locally as well as at the international level. The Nyungwe Nziza project was last year named winner of the British Guild of Travel Writers’ top Globe Award, at the Guild’s prestigious annual awards dinner that took place at the Savoy Hotel in London. Clare Akamanzi, the acting CEO of the Rwanda Development Board said that Nyungwe offers a combination of tourism, wildlife, environmental and agricultural development which add beauty as well as create jobs for the people. A press release from British Guild of Travel Writers Secretariat stated that Nyungwe National Park, the Rwanda Development Board project was praised for harmonizing tourism, wildlife, environmental and agrarian development in one of Africa’s last surviving patches of primeval pre-Ice Age rainforests.
As if that was not enough, Nyungwe has recently been short-listed for the 2013 World Travel Awards. It was nominated alongside Kalahari Game Reserve (Botswana), Etosha National Park (Namibia), Kruger National Park (South Africa), Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya), Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), and Kidepo National Park in Uganda. Each year, World Travel Awards organize regional gala ceremonies to recognize conservation efforts . This year the African gala ceremony will take place in Nairobi on October 16th while the grand finale for all continents will be staged in Doha, Qatar in November 30.
This year authorities in Rwanda have decided to celebrate the 2013 World Tourism Day inside Nyungwe, an event that is organized under the theme “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future”. This move reflects the important role Nyungwe National Park plays to mitigate climate change and protect a future that we all share. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged tourism establishments to cut consumption and improve waste management and called on individuals to play their part by making environmentally conscious choices when they travel. Any effort to conserve this park is not only beneficial to Rwanda but also to the whole world because at the end of the day climate change concerns every nation. The reasons why Nyungwe National Park sweeps international prestigious awards every other year.