Gishwati Area Conservation Program (GACP)
The Gishwati Area Conservation Program (GACP) is sponsored by Great Ape Trust, a US-based NGO. GACP was founded in 2007. In 2010, the Rwandan Ministry of Lands and Environment (MINELA) signed an MoU giving GACP responsibility for managing the protected Gishwati Forest for three years, and endorsing its connection to Nyungwe National Park by a forest corridor. Since 2007, the protected portion of Gishwati increased from 886 hectares to 1,484 hectares, the chimpanzee population has grown from 13 to 16, and people have ceased illegal activities in the core of the forest. Students and working adults in 14 schools and 10 cooperatives as well as officials of the Rutsiro District government are partnering with GACP to help restore Gishwati. Staff training programs, collaborations with cooperatives, and hosting students from Rwanda National University to conduct senior theses have already contributed to local and national capacity building; an emerging collaboration with Drake University on corridor planning will provide new opportunities for academic exchanges for Rwandan students and scientists.
• GACP provides employment to about 25 Rwandans, of whom about 20 live near Gishwati. Many of these neighbors have never had employment. Their salaries, and revenue generated by maintaining a field station near the forest, are economic engines in an area where nearly all residents engage in subsistence agriculture.
• GACP sponsors 14 school eco-clubs to build support for environmental conservation through education, and works with local cooperatives and citizens groups to promote understanding of connections between biodiversity, ecosystem services and public health.
• GACP is promoting and funding the cultivation of potatoes and cattle rearing to prevent crop-raiding by apes and monkeys.
• GACP supports a team of six uniformed eco-guards to monitor illegal and unsustainable use of forest resources and provide counseling about sustainable alternatives.
• GACP is developing an ecotourism programme, from which 100% of net profits will be returned to the local community.
• GACP has provided a rain collection system to support hygiene at the Kinihira elementary school, and in 2011, in a collaboration with the Rutsiro District government, will provide a roadside composting toilet (with maintenance service) for passers-by.
• GACP is sponsoring reforestation and afforestation programmes on the grounds of local schools and within the Forest boundaries to provide ecosystem services, e.g. cleaner water, decreased erosion, and access to needed sources of fuelwood and wood for construction. All areas reforested with native trees are surrounded by a buffer/boundary of economically useful trees that can be sustainably harvested by people living near the forest.