Africa
26 May 2015

Community empowerment in Ruyigi through local-led conservation

SSG members building a tree nursery (Photo: ABN)
By Claudette Murebwayire

The community of Ruyigi in the East of Burundi, represented by the association Serukubeze, a Site Support Group (SSG), is engaged in protecting the Mpungwe Mountain Chain, the country’s largest ecosystem. Communities there rely heavily on its ecosystem services such as water, honey, firewood, traditional medicines and building materials such as trees, grass, sand and stones. Unfortunately, the Mountain chain suffers from degradation due to both human and natural causes; these include drought, bush fires, agricultural expansion, overgrazing, soil erosion, human settlement and climate change.

Mpungwe mountain chain (Photo: ABN)

Local empowerment is a key element in enabling communities to understand and appreciate their contribution towards conservation of any ecosystem. Serukebeze association now has a better understanding of the threats facing Mpungwe Mountain Chain and has developed strategies to address them.

Through a project led by BirdLife, the SSG has been able to take some steps that will enable them to take part in the efforts towards conserving and protecting the Mpungwe Mountain Chain.

The association’s major achievements are highlighted here:

  • A Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) was conducted to assess the threats to the natural resources at Mpungwe Mountain. From this exercise the community was able to develop an action plan that will be used to address key threats that were identified. Morover, the plan will provide a useful guide for the community to use when fundraising for support to implement the necessary actions.
  • The SSG received support from the purchase of four mobile phones which were given to some members so that they could share information which would strengthen their ability to safeguard the environment, especially during the dry season when bush fires are very frequent.
  • The association participated in the review of Ruyigi Communal Plan for Community Development, thus increasing their capacity to engage with local policy makers. (for more information on this see  http://www.birdlife.org/africa/news/reviewing-ruyigi-communal-plan-community-development-opportunity-abn-and-ssgs-influence )
  • Leaders received intensive training to build capacity through planning and management of their association.The project facilitated networking with other partners and SSG members through exchange and lesson-learning visits, regionally and nationally, to increase awareness and assist in replication of good practices.
  • Through the tree nursery programme, the community has so far taken part in rehabilitating approximately 500 hectares of the Mountain chain.
  • Currently, the SSG is in the process of developing a National Empowerment strategy that will aim to take actions to save species, protect sites and habitats, promote ecological sustainability and empower people.

Trees planted by the SSG Mpungwe (Photo: ABN)

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The Association Burundaise pour la protection de la Nature (ABN, BirdLife  Partner), is working with Serukubeze in Ruyigi Province near the Ruvubu National Park, the largest Important Bird and Biodiversity Area in the country, towards implementation of the project “Empowering local communities for the conservation and sustainable development of the birds and biodiversity of the Lake Victoria Basin, the Greatest of Africa’s Great Lakes”, funded by the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation.

Story by Claudette Murebwayire, Project coordinator ABN