Honey is a very important renewable resource in Rwanda´s forested areas. There is a program at the Nyungwe National Park for teaching honeycomb harvesters to use modern as well as traditional techniques. The bees feed upon the native forest rich flowers, and then produce the honey into the combs that are in the surroundings of the national park, where the cooperatives of harvesters take advantage of the product.
Tea plantations have taken place where the original native mountain forest was flourishing during millenniums. Forests have been cleared off in order to feed the many people who depend on that harvest. But on the other hand, tea plantations by the side of the national parks helps making a very clear cut borders that delimitate them, making much easier to guard the forest from the poachers and furtive woodcutters.
Tropical forests are the most unlimited source of medicinal plants. The most of them are not yet discovered, but the traditional knowledge of the ancient cultures has walked part of the way. The joint botanical knowledge of traditional cultures and the world´s global growing use of plants for this purpose has allowed the local doctors the creation of mixed gardens that increase their tools for healing.
The Cercostachis scandens is a much dominant plant at the Nyungwe forest. It was very important for the elephants diet. But the last elephant was shot on Nyungwe on 1999. Since then, the plant has become an uncontrolled pest. It flowers every fifteen years, and it is said by the ancestors that every time it flowers there are tragedies, epidemics, natural disasters, wars, etc. The last time it flowered was 1994, year of the genocide.
Water is the base of life.We all are here not only because our planet is rich in water, but also because its average temperature is on the range of the liquid water. But we are too many, every time more and more, so water deficit is the most risking factor for human survival in not too long term. An incredible high amount of peoples fight for their daily life: the major aspects of the water crisis are overall scarcity of usable water and water pollution.
The renovation of tropical forests depends on the seed dispersers. Many medium size and big mammals and birds feed upon the abundance and diversity of fruits the jungle produces, taking their seeds away from the parental plants, which warranties their reproduction. Many of that animals have been heavily hunted and depleted so the long term survival of the forests is on risk. A forest without seed dispersers is a dead forest.
Most of the Rwandan population relies on firewood for cocking and warming. It has put the jungles and forest to very dangerous edges, reducing dramatically their original extensions. Several projects are trying to increase the use of alternative combustible sources, as the methane gas produced by the treatment of the organic disposals from towns, schools or even jails.
The great lakes in Africa are famous for their high numbers and diversity of fishes. A very big population around them relies upon fishing for its survival. In Rwanda fishing takes place on the country's lakes, but stocks are very depleted. The protection and control, particularly on national parks, help to prevent local extinctions, though are being still intensively used and the average size of the fishes is every time more and more reduced by the overfishing.
Swamps and marshes are among the richest but more fragile ecosystems. Unhappily they are being drained and dried worldwide for many different purposes. The Kamiranzovu swamp, on the Nyungwe National Park, though protected, remains on risk due to the land slidings of the main road, which takes mud to its pristine waters and threats its flow by repressing them. The farmers out of the park depend upon its waters for irrigation with a river that flows from the park.
The mountain gorillas are the most emblematic animals of Rwanda, symbols of the environment conservation and the wildlife tourism. The Ibiyiwa Culture Village at Nyabigoma, at the feet of the Sabyinyo volcano, is formed by ex-poachers, who have shifted from the furtive hunting to the tourism activities, showing to the visitors their traditional dances, music, medicine and craftsmanship and getting higher incomes while helping protect the environment.
Nature is an infinitely diverse mosaic. Every single piece –animals, plants, mushrooms and even bacteria and viruses- plays a transcendent and irreplaceable role. Thousands of millions of years have taken it to get to the magnificent world where we live. Humans have changed its equilibrium to a more than critical situation, where we all are endangered. Its indescribable diversity of life is on the highest risk, a diversity on which we depend for food, energy, medicine, shelter, recreation and much more. But, beyond our needs for survival, we do not have the right to destroy nor to alter this unparalleled masterpiece of millions of creatures.
Now it is time to make a decision. We have to choose whether our attitudes and activities led to Nature´s destruction –and ours, of course, as a part of it- or to its preservation. There is no other puzzle like this in the whole Universe, nor we will have the chance to get a second opportunity. The pieces are in your hands.
This work is homage to the peoples of Rwanda, that small country of the thousand hills and the thousand smiles. Despite of its dramatic history and the many problems it is facing, it bets for a green economy and alternative policies, where both, humans and nature, could benefit from each other; where Natures respect and preservation will conduct to the best health and wealth of its population. We also bet for Her, as an example to the rest of the world.
The work was done by the invitation of Art Works for Change and the help of United Nations Environment Program, for the celebration of the World Environment Day, celebrated in Kigali, Rwanda, on June 3rd, 2010.