Nyungwe National Park is globally recognized for its conservation value as the largest protected mountain forest block remaining in east and central Africa. It is also a major catchment for the nation of Rwanda, providing most of its water for drinking, manufacturing), and hydro-electricity generation. WCS has been working with the Government of Rwanda to:
- model the likely impact of illegal forest clearing and burning, and climate change on water quality and quantity flowing from Nyungwe National Park
- raise awareness within Government and the Private Sector of the importance of the forest for present and future water security in Rwanda, and
- encourage private sector (drinking water filtration, tea processing, drink manufacturing, and hydro-electric power) interest in working with the National Parks Agency within the Rwanda Development Board to support the conservation of Nyungwe National Park and secure predictable flows of low-sediment load water.
NNP partners, including USAID, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), are exploring the application of sustainable financing mechanisms like payment for ecosystem services (PES) as a means to protect and enhance the services and values provided by NNP while securing benefits to the adjacent communities.
Landlessness, decreasing agriculture productivity as a result of intensive cultivation, and lack of alternative economic opportunities for park’s neighbouring communities are significantly affecting the management of NNP. In addition to the park’s insufficient budget to meet the needs identi¬fied in its management plan illegal activities such as mining, poaching, encroachment for agriculture land are affecting the integrity of the park and its ecosystem services. Over the last two decades Rwanda has taken important strides to improve the management of its protected areas, and to utilize tourism as a way to generate the revenues to finance them and support community development projects. However, given the uncertainties of the global tourism industry—driven by factors such as the state of the global economy, the price of air transport due to fluctuations in oil prices, and the perceived state of international security—revenues from tourism seem to be unpredictable. Therefore there is an urgent need to diversify sources of revenues to address this uncertainty. The development of payments for watershed services in Nyungwe aims at addressing some of the challenges facing conservation in Rwanda including secure sustainable financing for parks management and support local livelihoods.
- True baselines of current anthropogenic impact to NNP
- Existing threats and implications to the ecosystem services provided by the park if those threats increased, and
- Potential interventions to address those threats.
As a first step WCS in partnership with the US Forest Service carried out a study to assess the impacts of land use practices and climate change on water quality and quantity. The potential impacts were evaluated through four scenarios: a baseline, deforestation, one degree Celsius temperature increase, and the combination of a one degree Celsius temperature increase and ten percent reduction in precipitation. The conclusions from the scenario runs suggested that due to global climate warming, specifically increases in temperature and reductions in precipitation would cause decreases in stream flow, conversion of forest to cropland would have minimal impact on stream flows, deforestation would greatly increase erosion and sedimentation, and that Nyungwe has relatively high water yield, 30%-40% of its annual precipitation, and due to steep slopes and high rainfall, deforestation within Nyungwe would cause serious sedimentation problems.
- Identification of current and projected costs of managing NNP;
- Identification and quantification of current revenues and gaps; and
- Development of revenue generation scenarios
- Data availability: Rwanda has limited capacity and equipment for water quality/quantity monitoring, the results hydrology modelling were generated from a very constrained dataset. Future analyses could be significantly strengthened if more regular, high quality monitoring data on water quality and quantity were available. Monitoring equipment and human technical capacity are both needed for collecting and analyzing data on present water conditions and for making predictions of future changes. To make a good business case for a potential lost value and business risk under a variety of land-use change scenarios good quality data is needed.
- Stakeholder Engagement: Ecosystem services cut across all the economic sectors. In order to ensure the smooth implementation of the PES system, stakeholder groups should be engaged throughout the entire formulation, implementation, and verification processes to ensure each has a compatible vision of success. The Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) with the support of WCS has created a national task force to advise, guide and provide technical leadership in the development of a national framework for developing and implementing PES. Through the PES task force government agencies meet on quarterly basis to discuss issues pertaining to PES development in Rwanda.