The Kibira National Park is a national park in northwestern Burundi. Overlapping four provinces and covering 400 km2, Kibira National Park lies atop the mountains of the Congo-Nile Divide. It extends north from the provincial town of Muramvya to the border of Rwanda where it is contiguous with the Nyungwe National Park.
Kibira National Park, the second largest natural reserve of Burundi, is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) and an Afromontane Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) with a rich and diverse forest ecosystem.
It covers 36,000 ha at an altitude between 1,600 m and 2,600 m, and is home to thousands of species of fauna and flora, many of which are endemic to the area.
Refugees and surrounding populations have caused enormous damage to the forest by cutting lumber for heating and clearing large patches of land for agriculture.
As a contribution to solving these complex problems, Resilience Now, through a small grant project funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund through the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot Regional Implementation Team, has started a series of activities to introduce sustainable practices among local communities, in the field of agriculture, energy and income generation.
The project is based on the premise that for local people to participate in the conservation of the KBA, they need to have the will to protect the site, the knowledge as to how to sustainably manage natural resources and viable alternatives to their damaging practices.
They also need to take a first step toward action. To reach these goals, Resilience Now has developed a methodology that uses behavior change psychology and develops in three steps: a participative resilience assessment makes the community aware of the need to change, a peer-to-peer training develops its capacities in various fields, and the participative definition of a community action plan compels participants to make a decision to change.
The preparatory work of the peer-to-peer training consisted in mapping successful initiatives in all Burundi, in the field of sustainable agriculture, energy and income generation. Many of them were identified, and 6 were retained for the tour, each of them presenting several solutions.
The 30 beneficiaries who went on the peer-to-peer study tour were very excited. According to Florence Gibert, who manages the project: "The beneficiaries were passionate discovering the solutions, and the host communities were no less thrilled to present their work. Each time, both communities were feverishly sharing technical advices and phone numbers."
In parallel, a workshop in Bujumbura brought together different organizations working for the protection of the environment in Burundi, to meet and share experiences with each other and create opportunities for synergy. More news about the sustainability of this project in a next article!
It is estimated that around 16% of the park consists of primary montane rainforest,the only montane forest in all of Burundi,and is adjacent to two large tea plantations, one in Teza and the other in Rwegura. The Park exceeds 1,100 m in elevation.
Dominant tree species include Symphonia globulifera, Newtonia buchananii, Albizia gummifera and Entandrophragma excelsum.
The forest contains areas of montane bog and bamboo stands. A total of 644 plants grown in the park. There are 98 species of mammal in the forest and 200 species of birds have been recorded here.
Although the Kibira has not been as thoroughly studied as some of its neighboring protected areas, it still is considered 'the most important site in Burundi for the conservation of montane-forest birds'.
Some of the important birds found here include the great blue turaco, mountain buzzard (Buteo oreophilus), white-spotted flufftail (Sarothrura pulchra), grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus), bar-tailed trogon (Apaloderma vittatum) and the black-and-white-casqued hornbill (Bycanistes subcylindricus).
The Kibira is home to a number of primate species, including chimpanzees and black and white colobus monkeys. The park is managed by the Institut National pour l'Environnement et la Conservation de la Nature (INECN).
Until 1933, this forest was a hunting reserve of the kings of Burundi. The local people respected the forest, investing it with a magical power. Rights of use for livestock grazing and the gathering of forest products were recognized.
The sacred character of the forest, even prior to the colonial era, helped to conserve it. Between 1933 and 1980 Kibira was classified as the Congo-Nile Ridge Forest Reserve,first under Belgian rule, then after Burundian Independence in July 1962. Only the extraction of high-value timber was regulated and controlled.
Between Independence and 1980, the right to allocate new land for cultivation within the defined boundary was abolished, although grazing rights were retained.
Despite its status as a National Park, there is much pressure on parts of the forest as a result of felling of trees and cutting of bamboo, fire and poaching, and encroaching subsistence agriculture.
The water from the forests of the Kibira National Park account for over three-quarters of the water that goes into the country’s largest dam, which generates half of the hydroelectric energy generated in the country.