Mukura Forest is one of Rwanda’s many forests. It’s a protected reserve located in the North-West part of the country, in the Albertine Rift Region within the Congo Nile crest and occupies an area of about 12.00 km. Originally, this forest was big and also part of mountain forest attached to Gishwati and Nyungwe and it extended right from the Nyungwe forest all the way to the Volcanoes national Park but today, it is a small and isolated forest chunk.
Mukura forest was designated as a forest reserve in 1951 and by then, it was as big as 30,000 hectares but a few years later almost half of forest cover was lost along with the amazing bio-diversity. This lose is as a result of human influence through their different activities. Today, there is just about 16,000 hectares of the forest left as the reserve although it is still a thick forest probably because it receives an amount of 1500 mm of rainfall every year, surviving under an average temperature of about 15 °C and lies at about 2600 meters high above sea level.
What to expect from Mukura forest reserve
This forest is blessed with variety of tree species but mainly it’s the Softwood plantation. The commonly seen trees include the Pinus trees, there are the Cupressus, the Callitris and many more. This forest also has more than 5, 793 different higher plant species that contribute to the bio diversity status.
Mukura is also a home to more than 402 different mammal species. You can expect a number of primates as they find this corridor freely available for them to move around. Primates like the Chimpanzees, golden monkeys, the L’hoest, blue monkeys, the black and white colobus monkeys, among others often walk out of Nyungwe forest into the Mukura forest. More to the mammals are the 293 reptile species that are commonly seen within this forest and several amphibians.
There are also various bird species, over 1,061 different birds thus making it also a great birding destination that birders should not miss visiting.
Main conservation challenges
Like all the other conserved and protected areas, Mukura forest reserve has faced a number of challenges but the major one being the human influence. Human activities like settlement destroyed almost half to this forest, over 600 people have occupied a square kilometer each and they have put up homes and farms. They also use the forest as a resource, they collect herbs, firewood, food and timber from this very forest.
To reduce on the different challenges that are affect the survival of this forest reserve, there are a number of conservation strategies that have been set up;
Rwanda setup a target of about 30% of all green coverage by 2020 and they already started the tree planting exercise just so they can achieve this.
The Rwanda government has come up with the plan to protect forests by training and providing forest guards, ensuring capacity building among communities and carrying out public awareness creation in the different communities about the benefits of forest conservation.
Rwanda has publicly made it clear to the citizens that forests are among the very important pillars of the country’s economy. It plays a very important role in the booming of the Agriculture sector since forests help in the rain formation which is import for the proper growth of crops. Forestry is vital in the tourism business because forests are homes to various tourism attractions. Forests also help with the environmental stability as well as Energy.
They learnt to involve the local people that live in communities the surround the different forests across the country in the conservation. The locals that live around Mukura forest reserve are also included in the conservation activities of this forest.
The government is working on increasing on the (IGA) income generating activities that can be done outside of the forest since they largely depend on the forest. This is intended to inspire communities to help in with the forest conservation. And to ensure that these income generating activities (IGA) thrive, the government helped to create local cooperatives that facilitate the IGA.
They have also gotten more women as well as youth involved the conservation of this forest and ensure its development too.
Visit Mukura forest for a nature walk. The visit can be combined with a visit to Gishwati national park in Rwanda.