Tag Archives: Volcanoes National Park (PNV)

Allison Contributes To The Gorilla Journal

From Julie

Allison Hanes writes about the work of Art of Conservation in the latest Gorilla Journal. In addition to Allison’s article, you’ll find other important news including a discussion on the economic value of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I’d like to thank editor Dr. Angela Meder for putting out such an informative journal and for incorporating Allison’s article in this latest edition.

Please click here Gorilla Journal No. 47, December 2013.

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

Parks & Animals

From Julie
From Julie

Eric and Innocent are delivering a brilliant lesson this week teaching our students about Rwanda’s three national parks, their locations, and a few types of the animals that live within the protected areas. I am not a mapmaker – if anyone can correct me on the maps I am making I would appreciate it – but I am enjoying researching and developing more child-friendly versions for our classroom use. The maps are glued in the children’s notebooks for easy reference.

Rwanda's national park at Art of Conservation 2013Map displaying Rwanda’s national parks.

Because AoC is all about animals, Eric and Innocent decided to choose a few animals from each park which may be more well-known to the children and let them decorate their own. Giraffe, lion, baboon, owl, golden monkey and of course the mountain gorilla are the highlighted animals for the week!

Animals in Rwanda. Art of Conservation 2013Eric holds samples to get the kids going.

With alacrity the children begin coloring in their animals. The team then glues tongue depressors to the back and we have a classroom of bright masks. Asked if they would like us to file their masks in their envelopes they quickly said they would like to walk around their village with them and then take them home. We agree that that’s a great idea.

Animals & National Parks. Art of Conservation 2013Students with their newly decorated animal masks.

Saving Gorillas Through Educating and Empowering Communities

From Julie
From Julie

Back to school! This week my team and I return to the field every morning to teach darling Rwandan children how to better care for themselves, their community, and the environment. Every morning we pack our truck at the AoC office with fantastic learning materials and travel up towards the Volcanoes National Park.

Class #1 for 2013 Art of Conservation, RwandaA photo of students taking our pre-questionnaire. Doesn’t quite seem fair to quiz the kids on their conservation & health knowledge at our first class meeting, but these questionnaires help measure our teaching skills and the childrens understanding.

Art of Conservation annually provides 200 children – 10 to 16 years of age – living in rural communities bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park with over 20,000 hours of comprehensive conservation and health education. Additionally, AoC conducts workshops one Friday and one Saturday per month.

Class #1 for 2013 Art of Conservation, RwandaOur first session together sets the stage to a safe and nurturing learning environment. These girls celebrate at the end of todays lesson.

Our conservation lessons focus on the importance of protecting the health and stability of the local ecosystem, with special emphasis on the critically endangered mountain gorilla. AoC’s health and personal care classes help students learn to lessen the instances of human illness being transmitted to the gorilla population by people living in and near the national park.

Please stay with us and better get to know the team, our new teachers-in-training, students, and their families.

Cecile Provides Trainings For Community Members

From Innocent
From Innocent

Since 2009, I have worked closely with our briquette producer partner Cecile Nyirabahutu. With trainings at Rumangabo in DRC to Legacy Foundation’s briquette network conference in Tanzania, Cecile and I have learned a lot about alternative cooking fuel technologies. Art of Conservation in turn then helped Cecile set up her own income-generating business called Save the Forests Briquette Initiative. As you travel along the Kinigi road to park headquarters you’ll find Cecile and her family making and selling briquettes.

Cecile, at the far left, shares with community members her amazing story on how she started making and selling briquettes to improve her livelihood.

As Art of Conservation’s concentrated support toward Save the Forests Briquette Initiative winds down, we have no doubt Cecile can continue as well as train other communities bordering Volcanoes National Park. Recently, we helped Cecile put together a day of community trainings at her workshop. Trainings were both in the morning and afternoon.

Trainees are so impressed at Cecile’s speed in cooking a pot of rice with briquettes!

The trainees were full of questions in which Cecile responded to in detail. Cecile then taught them about her mixture she has mastered for the briquettes. Once she finished providing a demonstration at the big wooden press she insisted everyone else take turns and try it themselves.

Trainee Jean De Dieu Nyabyenda, pictured at the far right, has already acquired a briquette press from Art of Conservation and is ready to start a briquette project in his community.

After learning from Cecile, Jean De Dieu Nyabyenda from Susa Community in Musanze District is determined to start a briquette project in his community. During my recent conversation with Jean, I asked him what his most important need was for him to start his own briquette workshop and he said he needed a press. This morning he came to our office and received a press as a donation from Art of Conservation.

Consolee Nyirabatangana, a president of a cooperative called Igisubizo, smiles as she and others produce their first briquettes.

A participant named Pastor Twizerimana Eliyezeri from Shingiro Environmental Cooperative said he thinks his cooperative can make and sell briquettes in addition to its usual activities. Likewise, let’s hope all the community briquette training participants will practice the great lessons taught by Cecile and together save Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park rain forest and improve the local population’s livelihoods.

Classroom in the Forest, Part 1

Not so long ago while on break from our daily classes between terms 1 and 2, I arranged for staff members, partners, teachers-in-training, and a few students to visit mountain gorillas. For many in Rwanda, the purchase of a park permit plus transportation costs are out of their financial abilities. Considering the core of AoC’s mission – dedication to the protection of mountain gorillas by educating and empowering local communities bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park – it is not hard to suspect that the people I am surrounded by on a daily basis are all in one way or another directly linked to the conservation efforts of the endangered mountain gorilla.

Umubano Gorillas with Olivier, Clementine, J.Bosco. Art of Conservation 2012If all learning sessions could be so lovely! Volcanoes National Park guide Augustin stops the group for conservation lessons on the slopes between the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes.

I drove and accompanied each group into the forest, lucky me! Students participating in our year-long extracurricular program are not eligible to visit the national park yet. Park rules require visitors to be 15 years or older. Anyway, as much as I would love to give each of our amazing students an opportunity to visit the gorillas, to take 200 children annually is a bit unrealistic for budget and logistic reasons. Good news came to 7 children from AoC’s Sports for Gorillas initiative as they made the 15 and older cut!

Hirwa Gorillas, Guide Olivier Mutuyimana. Art of Conservation 2012Guide Olivier demonstrates the gorilla technique for eating one of their favorite forest foods… bamboo shoots. A tracker is in the background.

The children involved are my neighbors and sure enough at 6:00 am they were at the AoC office ready to go. I pulled the many rain jackets, hats, backpacks, and water bottles I have and gladly shared them with the kids. For the most part we were lucky with the weather despite being in Rwanda’s long rainy season – rain fell but never too much to hamper our great experience of learning and discovery.

Kwitonda Gorillas. Cecile, Valerie, Emmanuel, Ndagidimana. Art of Conservation 2012Our briquette producer partner, Cecile, with Valerie, Emmanuel, and Ndagijimana posing in front of a sleepy Kwintonda family.

I felt honored to be hiking in the forest with Cecile as her knowledge of the plants and their various uses is extensive. She’s like a walking botanist. I was also struck by her comment at being surprised to see how much work it takes on the part of the guides and park service in offering such a tourist experience. Our guide that day, Emmanuel, happens to be about one of the coolest guys around and so together with Cecile, Valerie, and the children we were like the happiest campers on Earth!

I have more to share about these recent visits, please stay tuned.

Visiting Gorillas

Hi, Eusebe here. A few days ago, Julie, two Sports for Gorillas kids – Habibu and Valens – and I visited mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. We visited Hirwa Group with 17 members; 1 silverback, 7 adult females, 2 black backs, and 7 juveniles and babies. Munyinya is the silverback of 27 years of age. It is an enthusiastic group with the juveniles playing a lot. Mama Kabatwa’s twins, Isango Gakuru and Isango Gato, are so cute and healthy. Another very exciting thing is that Mama Mararo has a baby born on the 2nd of February 2012. She is so protective and loving to her new baby. The baby will soon be named at the Kwita Izina Ceremony in June. Visiting this group was really wonderful.
At the park’s buffer wall, Bernice, our guide from RDB, gives the tourists a briefing on how to behave inside the park and in front of the mountain gorillas.

Park guide, Olivier, while munching on a bamboo shoot, tells us that bamboo shoots are like beer to the mountain gorillas because when they eat them they become so animated.

Olivier, RDB Guide, shows us a favorite treat of the mountain gorillas, bamboo shoots.

This was the first opportunity for me to see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Being face to face with the gorillas made me so happy. I watched carefully their behaviors which I have been studying ever since working at Art of Conservation. I watched their eating, playing, size, shape, colors, chest slapping… all things I have been learning about from people in conservation, and from books and documentaries.

We viewed Hirwa Group on a slope of the volcano foothills. They put on a great display of playing, standing up and walking bipedal, chest beating, wrestling, rolling down the steep slope and running back up again.

Mountain gorillas are approximately 98% genetically similar to humans. Their gestation period is 9 months as people. An infant will cling to its mama for about 3 years and share a night nest with her.

Mama Mararo’s baby, born on the 2nd of February 2012, takes milk from its mama. The baby will soon be named on 16 June 2012 at the Kwita Izina Ceremony (Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming ceremony).

Mountain gorillas… so happy and peaceful in their home.

Art of Conservation’s sponsored Sports for Gorillas programs are providing the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club members who are 15 years and older a visit to the mountain gorillas. Valens and Habibu are the first while the other kids are waiting for their turn! We will let you know more about this later.

Valens (left), Habibu (right), Silverback Munyinya (far back), and I (middle) in the mountain gorilla’s lush home. You can see all of the healthy plants, let’s protect them!!

A Video: Promoting Gorilla Conservation

A short video with scenes from the classroom during our first few months of 2012 lessons.  Still lots more to instill in the kids –  just getting started – but we’re off to a great beginning as Valerie, Innocent, Olivier, Eric and Eusebe work hard to foster as much knowledge and understanding as they can with these sensational children.

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A Short Note to Gorilla Tourists & Tour Operators

Over the years since I’ve been in Rwanda and have been fortunate to take a gorilla trek or two, I’ve witnessed park personel and drivers informing visitors to refrain from buying anything that the local children may be trying to sell, such as drawings of gorillas. I’ve noticed these efforts as well as the governments efforts in getting kids in school are helping to deter begging.

Art of Conservation works in primary schools bordering Volcanoes National Park. During our classes, our students receive lots of hand-out materials as well as worksheets for exercises in geography, health, art, and more. While I am not aware of a particular case of students out trying to sell their Art of Conservation worksheets, we do request that our students do NOT try to sell any of this work to tourists.

In a recent class session, students received envelopes with their names and enjoyed decorating them with cut-outs from construction paper. Once they finished, we gathered the envelopes which are now sitting in our office. From this point, we’ll put all of their work in the envelopes which will then be given to them at the end of the year at our open houses. At the open houses, we take the opportunity to encourage parents not to allow siblings to take the work and try to sell it.

Eusebe teaching.  Art of Conservation 2012Eusebe shows cut-outs glued onto envelopes. Each student decorates his/her own envelope which is then used to store all of their worksheets from our year together.

So long story short, if you are at Volcanoes National Park and you come across children who are trying to sell you anything with Art of Conservation printed on it, could you please let me know? This is not something I consent to or encourage. Like I said, I haven’t seen a particular situation where this is happening. My team and I are being as careful as we possibly can and with visitors, drivers, and PNV park personel knowing how we stand on this, I hope it helps us all in the pursuit to empower local communities and protect the critically endangered mountain gorillas and its habitat. Thank you for listening!

Valerie helping students. Art of Conservation 2012Valerie works with children decorating their envelopes which holds their work.

Community Radio: Green City Interview

Happy New Year friends! I was in the states during the holidays and had the opportunity to speak with Peter Sherinian, the host of a program called Green City, which aires on a listener supported service of The Des Moines Community Radio Foundation. Peter provided me this great opportunity to speak more about how Art of Conservation is working with Rwanda’s local communities to help protect the critically endangered mountain gorillas. Please click this link http://db.tt/8Y7tD75X to listen to our conversation. Thanks!
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda  4-October-2011
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Honored by Visitors With A Pledge of Marketing Support

Honorable Minister François Kanimba’s delegation visits Cecile’s Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.

Innocent here with ongoing good news about our alternative fuel technology initiative. Cecile and the Save The Forests Briquette Initiative keep making headlines – this time with the recent visit from a delegation from the Rwandan Ministry of Trade and Industry led by Honorable Minister François Kanimba. Wow! Cecile couldn’t believe her eyes and ears! What a big honor!

VIP's to Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.  AoC 2011Cecile briefing Minister Kanimba’s delegation including the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Permanent Secretary, the Mayor of Musanze District, and many other VIPs on the background and start up of Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.

It turned out that the Rwandan Ministry of Trade and Industry in collaboration with other institutions including the National Institute of Statistics and the Private Sector Federation recently conducted a survey countrywide on the statistics of small and medium enterprises across all districts of Rwanda. Musanze District, where AoC and Save The Forests Briquette Initiative operate, was ranked second after Kigali City. (Kigali in the capital city of Rwanda.) This survey was part of the program referred as “Hanga Umurimo”, loosely in English, “Create a job”. Given that Musanze District is located in a remote area as compared with Kigali, this countywide ministerial tour of small and medium enterprises started out with Musanze District, and that’s how Cecile and Save The Forests Briquette Initiative was visited the first!

VIP's to Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.  AoC 2011Cecile offering a demonstration at the briquette press to the Honorable Minister’s delegation and journalists.

Cecile and her visitors’ dialogue was quite amazing. As she usually does for all visitors, Cecile explained she was immediately interested in the briquette initiative when Art of Conservation first approached her with the idea and opportunity to train in this new technology. She shares that her main reason of interest was to save Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park rainforest, home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla, and to make some money for her family to live on.

She was definitely ready to leave her former occupation of selling charcoal far behind! Cecile and I both remember those days how Julie always stopped the truck when passing Cecile on the Kinigi Road with the heavy sack of dirty charcoal on her head and would ask Cecile, “What else can we do? We need to find an alternative and get you out of this charcoal trade.”

VIP's to Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.  AoC 2011Cecile giving an interview to journalists as she demonstrates to the ministerial delegation how briquettes are very efficient especially when used with the proper stove… this stove, by the way, is given to a new customer for FREE with their first purchase of a sack of briquettes!

Cecile also shared with the inquisitive crowd the challenges of marketing, being her biggest challenge. Minister Kanimba pledged support on that issue through Musanze District leaders. We hope this will enable her to keep up her great work of saving the forests, protecting habitat to the critically endangered mountain gorilla, make MORE money, keep being a role model not only at sector, district, or provincial level, but also at national and international level. Congratulations Cecile!