26 October 2006

East Africa: ARCOS Call for Nature Protection

Kigali — Officials from the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) have urged member countries to strengthen efforts in conserving nature.The call was made during a three day meeting bringing together ARCOS members from Burundi, Democratic republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda that has been taking place since October 24, at hotel Novotel Umubano.

In an exclusive interview with The New Times, the Secretary to the Board of ARCOS, Sam Kanyamibwa, who is also Deputy Director for the World Wide Fund Nature (WWFN), said that it is imperative to have such meetings so as to exchange knowledge among countries that share the Albertine Rift Valley.

"This meeting brings together 28 participants from Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) involved in the development and conservation of nature in the region. We are here because conservation is an important aspect of nature", Kanyamibwa observed.

He added that over 80 per cent of the population in the Albertine Rift Valley region which is as long as 1500km, depends on natural resources found within, and therefore there is need for mainstreaming and integrating environmental aspects if development is to take place harmoniously. "It is important that these NGOs understand the environment and development by sharing experiences, knowledge and information", Kanyamibwa concluded.

Speaking to The New Times, Joseph Rwabutogo, an environmental officer in Rwanda's Ministry of Lands and Environment, said that it is high time NGOs and governments started discussing and planning together, thereby putting together strategies for development.

Rwabutogo however, warned NGOs which have selfish motivatives, calling for NGOs to work together, identify where there is need for emergency so that action can be taken. "Let NGOs register and get NGO status rather than relying on one single individual," he said

Aimee Mpambara, an environmental officer from Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) said that NGOs are usually close to the local people and once they have a good action plan, they can easily save the environment from any further deterioration.

Presenting Uganda as a case study, Joel Musasizi, National Coordinator Wild Life Club of Uganda, said that awareness is important for conservation and development.

"This workshop helps us to develop uniform messages about biodiversity conservation, development and governance", Musasizi said quoting examples of Mabira forest, Ssese forest and other places in Uganda where NGOs strongly resisted government plans to use them for other purposes without minding about conserving the nature.

Started in 1995, ARCOS is the only conservation organisation with a unique focus on biodiversity conservation at the regional level in the Albertine Rift region. ARCOS's meeting which was officially opened on October 24, by Rwanda's Ministers for Lands and Environment, Christopher Bazivamo is expected to end today.

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