Sisal Planting for Conservation of Akagera National Park and Sustainable livelihoods.
Ended in March 2014.
The Akagera National Park covers 1,200km² and is located in Eastern Province of Rwanda, against the Tanzanian border. It is situated in 150 km far from Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. It was founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation in three ecoregions: savannah, mountain and swamp. The park is named for the Kagera River which flows along its eastern boundary feeding into several lakes the largest of which is Lake Ihema. The complex system of lakes and linking papyrus swamps makes up over 1/3 of the park and is the largest protected wetland in central Africa.
Much of the savannah area of the park was settled in the late 1990s by former refugees returning after the end of the Rwandan Civil War. Due to land shortages, in 1997 the western boundary was re-gazetted and much of the land allocated as farms to returning refugees. Even though, this part is a protected area, the pressure on its biodiversity is still observable. This pressure is caused by farmers, looking for land for agricultural activities, pasture for cattle, fire wood and water for domestic animals (cows, goats).
Although much of the best savannah grazing land is now outside the park boundaries, what remains of Akagera is some of the most diverse and scenic landscape in Africa. Akagera is comprised of swamps, lakes, savannah, woodland and open grassland. The lakes draw out herds of elephant and buffalo, while the savannah typically attracts giraffe, antelope zebra and carnivores like leopards, lion and hyena. The park has a variety of wildlife and is a habitat for over 500 different species of birds.
On the other hand, conflicts arise between the local community and the animals from the park as they get out and destroy surrounding farmers’ crops. Meanwhile, Rwanda Development Board/Department of Tourism is trying to put an electric fence on the park but seen the length of the park some animals will be left out in Gabiro Military zone.
The project was implemented in Rwimbogo sector, Gatsibo District of the Eastern province of Rwanda. It covered the length of 20 Km on the width of 4 m which means the surface of 9 ha.
The overall goal of this project was to reduce crop raiding, encroachment of the Akagera National Park by the community and promote the livelihoods through the exploitation of sisal products.
The specific objectives of the project:
• Set up a sisal plantation of 3 ha for demonstration of sisals nurturing
• Prevent human–wildlife conflicts by creating a hedge of sisals on Gabiro Military zone
• Empower the community in exploitation of sisal products
• Production and plantation of sisal species in buffer zone and around Akagera National Park in Rwimbogo sector side
• Offering various trainings to farmers and local authorities on different techniques of sisal farming and its importance on
biodiversity conservation and climate change
• Disseminating the information relating sisal plantation and exploitation techniques in the whole region through workshops
• The distance of 20 km around Gabiro military zone Rwimbogo is covered by a hedge of sisal plantation
• 160 farmers were trained on sisal plantation and maintenance and its role in improvement of socioeconomic conditions
• 4 hectares of sisals were planted in buffer zone
• 320 Members of the community were trained on sustainable management of Akagera National Park resources
• 6 Environmental Clubs in schools were formed
The purpose and specific goals of the project:
The purpose and specific goals of the project: Traditionally, sisal has been the leading material for agricultural twine because of its strength, durability, ability to stretch, affinity for certain dyestuffs and resistance to deterioration in saltwater. Apart from ropes, twines, and general cordage, sisal is used in low-cost and specialty paper, dartboards, buffing cloth, filters, mattresses, carpets, handicrafts, wire rope cores and Macramé. In recent years sisal has been utilized as an environmentally friendly strengthening agent to replace asbestos and fibreglass in composite materials in various uses including the automobile industry. The lower-grade fibre is processed by the paper industry because of its high content of cellulose and hemicelluloses. The medium-grade fibre is used in the cordage industry for making ropes, baler and binder twine. Ropes and twines are widely employed for marine, agricultural and general industrial use. The higher-grade fibre after treatment is converted into yarns and used by the carpet industry.
Exploitation of sisals for income generating
Nowadays, the handcrafts industry is growing fast since new opportunities are expanding. The traditional basket (Agaseke) is reputable in USA and Japan. Hence this project will help farmers to increase their revenues through the sale of sisal leaves to handcraft artisans.