Rwanda: How Rwanda Will Benefit From Nyungwe Forest's Unesco World Heritage Status

Some visitors tour Kigali Genocide Memorial, one four genocide memorials listed among world heritage sites.
20 September 2023

Biodiversity and conservation experts have described the inscription of Rwanda's Nyungwe National Park on UNESCO's World Heritage List as an opportunity to boost tourism, spur job creation and tap into the global carbon market.

Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda's largest rainforest became the country's first site to get UNESCO's coveted World Heritage status on Tuesday, September 19, during the UN agency's 45th session of the World Heritage Committee, taking place in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

"Nyungwe's status on UNESCO's World Heritage List will boost research funding, tourism and conservation initiatives in addition to boosting Rwanda's visibility worldwide," said Aloysie Manishimwe, a conservation expert and researcher with the Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management at the University of Rwanda.

"The forest has a lot of biodiversity species and has a great contribution to carbon stock," she noted.

Speaking after the inscription, Minister of National Unity and Civic Engagement Jean Damascene Bizimana, who was in Riyadh, said the Rwandan government welcomed the new development.

"This inscription is not only a contribution to the preservation of Rwanda's natural heritage, it is also of particular significance to the Rwandan people, for whom it is the first site inscribed on this universal list," Bizimana said in a statement.

A source of two of the world's longest rivers

The expansive rainforest that covers up to 101,900 hectares feeds two of the world's longest rivers - River Nile and River Congo - and is the source of up to 70 per cent of Rwanda's freshwater.

For Concorde Nsengumuremyi, the Director General of Rwanda Forestry Authority, conserving Nyungwe could avoid water crises in many countries.

"It is the source of River Nile. If well protected, Nyungwe will sustainably supply water to all countries benefiting from the Nile. Its nomination will also increase the political visibility of Rwanda," he said.

He added that nomination as UNESCO's World Heritage will attract more tourists and spur job creation.

"We expect more economic initiatives around Nyungwe National Park. And remember it's a carbon pool that will help the country to deal with the carbon market opportunities," Nsengumuremyi said.

Rwanda Development Board (RDB), which manages national parks, said: "The inscription of Nyungwe National Park serves as a vital step in ensuring its long-term conservation, preserving its natural heritage for future generations, and promoting sustainable development for neighbouring communities."

Established as a natural reserve in 1933, the forest located in southwestern Rwanda became a national park in 2005 in a bid by the government to bolster its protection and safeguard the thousands of endangered and endemic species it harbours.

Boasting remarkable biodiversity, Nyungwe is home to over a dozen species of primates, 322 bird species, 200 identified orchids, and nearly 300 butterfly species, including some that are endemic to the forest.

UNESCO said the rainforest is also home to at least 12 mammal and bird species that are globally threatened.

The inscription of Nyungwe National Park into the UNESCO World Heritage list follows the inclusion of Gishwati-Mukura National Park in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2020.

This recognition builds upon the long-established presence of the Volcanoes Biosphere Reserve in north-western Rwanda, which has been a part of the network since 1983.

"Together, these designations underscore Rwanda's commitment to conserving its natural heritage and contributing to global conservation efforts," the RDB said.

Until Nyungwe's inscription, Rwanda was among 12 African countries which did not have a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Rwandan government has also requested the inscription of four memorial sites of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi on UNESCO's World Heritage List and according to available information; this is expected to be on the agenda on Wednesday.

AllAfrica publishes around 400 reports a day from more than 100 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.