If we were to cease objection between protected areas management authorities and local custodians! The conservation education curriculum has to Change.

Source: Bamulesewa Sudi

Around the world, biodiversity conservation using protected areas mechanism is common, but it is often accused to cause dispute between indigenous communities and the management authorities in terms of best practice of biodiversity consumption, policies, and community projects which are against community traditions and beliefs, and these approaches were termed by “Yellowstone Model”. (John, 2009; WRM, 2005) Hence, designation of areas as protected areas was targeting areas with reach biodiversity, but it often ignored the fact that human being was also part of those ecosystems (Hannah, 2016). And this occurred since the creation of the first protected area in America, namely, caused by lack of aborigine’s involvement and consultation before developing policies and consumption protocols to achieve the wildlife conservation intuition, Read (John, 2009; John, 2001). To cover the gap, governments and conservation organization and park management authority admitted conservation education as an approach to enlighten indigenous communities on the importance of protected areas and wildlife in general, yet these approaches are not effective enough to cease threats caused by traditional practices and belief aborigines towards natural resources (Mark, 2009).

Country Case Study, Rwanda.

Rwanda as a developing country, majority of its citizens depend on natural resources for survival, estimated 87% do agriculture for survival, and 93% use firewood as domestic energy to be specific (RNRA, 2011), and a number of indigenous communities still practice traditional hunting and use medical plant and etc (VolcanoesparkRwanda.com, 2021). It is, therefore, conservation education around natural resources is vital in a country like Rwanda which nature asset is a crucial resource to access financial assets (Ministry of Land and Forest, 2017). Yet, practices of ancestor’s cultures and tradition towards the natural resource, belief to ownership and consumption of natural resource within community’s habitat in areas surrounding protected areas continue to hinders collaboration between local community’s and protected areas management authorities, and quickly engage and implement what is communicated through conservation education programmes, and mostly this thwarts the achievement of protected areas management goals, till today (Kalulu, R, et al, 2016; Gorillafund, 2015).

Economically, the tourism sector is fundamentally dependent on protected areas in Rwanda, and income generated either directly, indirectly, and induce revenue contributes enormously to the gross domestic product, whereby, tourism sector as a whole contribute 7.4% of the total country gross domestic product (GDP) (UNCTAD, 2014).  In a study conducted by Glenn. B, et al (2010). This shows that, poor understanding of conservation intention and community point of view of natural resources consumption, still impulse community to invade protected areas looking for firewood, bush meat, construction material such bamboo, and etc, lead safeness of the precious mountain gorillas and other wild animal habitats within volcano national park. To halt threat done by local communities, conservation organization perform conservation educations programmes at all level of education herein, Primary, Secondary, and University level (Gorillafund, 2015; Gorillafund, 2012).

However, since the legislation of the volcano national park as a protected area in 1925, conservation education approaches seem to have little impact in increasing community understanding of the importance of wildlife conservation (Hannah, 2016). Whereby, a number of individual still practice traditional hunting methods within protected areas, and economically community are affected by the shortage of alternative source of income, and meet the demand of the meat (WRM, 2005). In the Northern part, since the Volcano National Park was registered and recognized as a wild animal sanctuary and a home of endangered mountain gorillas, in 1925 resources that exist within protected areas was identified as non-human consumption, and illegal ( NetGeo, 2018; John, 2009). Generally, all of these biodiversity management mechanisms reflected and still reflecting indigenous communities’ culture and traditional practices, and livelihoods as they are still urged to integrate within a new and civilized world (Mark, 2009; John, 2001). And the arduous equation is to enlighten custodians of these natural resources on the management plans, their impact on humanity, and lack of collaboration between both parties, “Protected areas managements and indigenous communities” to reach the main goal of conserving and preserving biodiversity (Jani, 2018; John, 2009). And given the shortage of job opportunities, agricultural land availability and the meat demand in territories around protected areas, traditional practices of natural resource consumption are still conducted by rural communities for survival. (Ready, Hannah, et al, 2006 ), not forgetting the increasing number population in districts adjacent to the protected area. Therefore, communication on values and best practice of natural resource consumption through conservation education programmes within community’s neighbourhoods or school compound is adopted to increase awareness and collaboration in wildlife management, is vital and need quick transformation to easily empathize indigenous community with protected areas management vision on biodiversity consumption with practices which are simpler for the community to understand (Gorillafund, 2012; Tanya, 2014).

Best Practices to Perform Conservation Education programmes

Rwanda, as in many other countries, protected areas management is not appropriately implemented to include indigenous communities in decision making and planning (John, 2009). And, mechanisms like tourism revenue sharing that aims to support indigenous communities living in districts surrounding protected areas, conservation education programmes are the key component to urge stewardship and collaboration between protected area management authority and indigenous communities (Phiona, et al, 2015). Additionally, through these initiatives, indigenous communities especially children acquire knowledge, skills, and values to outstand the leadership towards environmental issues in their communities, and most important is the understanding the participants obtain through education curriculum in a meaningful way of taking care of the environment (Muhirwa, 2020). Furthermore, programmes like conservation education tend to become useful regarding the level of literate communities around protected areas like volcano national park and others around the country.

Nevertheless, by considering traditional and cultural beliefs towards the functionality of weather and environment, and looking at the context of biodiversity and human being in areas surrounding protected area where community still do substance farming and aquaculture, using traditional and cultural practices, conservation education through communication demonstrated low effect since the creation of protected areas, Ready Gorillafund, (2012). It is, therefore, teaching how ecosystem service work would be an ideal approach by integrating environmental functionality as traditionally known by local communities in conservation education curriculums to disseminate protected areas mainstreams, would impulse sympathy and simple approach of connecting the local community belief with the rationale behind designating and areas as a protected area (Kalulu, 2016, Gorillafund, 2012).

Why Integrating Ecosystem Service into Conservation Education Curriculums

Traditionally, human has ways to communicate with nature, and culturally they had a way to use natural resources to feed their body and their beliefs. And through Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) study on the Linkage Between Protected Areas and Conservation of Biodiversity For Food and Agriculture, it was discerned that protected areas contribute to protection and delivery of ecosystem service such as pollination and water provision to food and agricultural system (FAO, 2020). And (John, 2001) argue that since the creation and implementation of protected areas mechanisms, indigenous community traditions, culture, and belief was ignored, yet it would have been the easiest hole to convey the rationale of protected and easily empathize with the wildlife conservation education programmes, and urge community commitment to conservation wildlife willingly. Therefore, with a consideration of traditional understanding between indigenous communities, teaching how ecosystem service function, and prevent a human being from being affected by the inefficient use of natural resource including wild animals and forest could be the easiest way to advocate for biodiversity and sustain the human right of choosing between right and wrong. And eventually, with consideration of tradition, cultures, and belief indigenous community would easily become protected areas activist we urge conservation organization to intergrate ecosystmen service in conservation education curriculums.

Reference list:

NetGeo. (2018) These Are the World’s First  National Park. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/article/worlds-first-protected-lands-conservation-yellowstone. [ Accessed 25th March 2021 ]

Tanya. (2014) How Africa’s Oldest Park can benefit Both Gorillas and Locals. Available at: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2014/11/07/362084196/how-africas-first-national-park-can-benefit-both-gorillas-and-locals. [ Accessed 25th March 2021 ]

Jani (2018). Virunga National Park Sees Its Worst Violence in a Decade, Director Says. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/article/wildlife-watch-virunga-rangers-deaths-poaching-militia-gorillas. [ Accessed 25th March 2021 ]

John (2009). The U.S National Park in International Perspective: Yellow Stone Model or Conservation Syncretism?. Available at: https://www.srs.fs.fed.us/pubs/ja/2010/ja_2010_schelhas_001.pdf. [ Accessed 25th March 2021 ].

WRM. (2005) Indigenous People. Available at: https://wrm.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Indigenous_Peoples_their-forests_struggles_and_rights.pdf. [Accessed 25th March 2021 ]

John ( 2001) Form Principle To Practices: Indigenous People and Protected areas In Africa. Available at: https://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2010/10/forewordandintroeng.pdf. [ Accessed 26th March 2021 ]

RNRA, (2011). National Bamboo Policy. Available at: http://rnra.rw/uploads/media/Rwanda_Bamboo_Policy.pdf [ Accessed 4th March 2021]

VolcanoesparkRwanda.com, (2021) Poaching in Volcano National Park. Available at: https://www.volcanoesparkrwanda.org/information/poaching-volcanoes-national-park/. [ Accessed 25th March 2021 ]

Ministry of Forestry and Mines (2017). Forest Investment Programmes for Rwanda. Available at:  http://rwfa.rw/fileadmin/user_upload/Rwanda_National_Forestry_Policy_2018.pdf [Accessed 23rd March 2021]

Kalulu, R. Tushabe, E. NSabimana, E. (2016). Toursim Conservation Policy in Rwanda Case Study of Volcano National Park.  Available at: https://www.hrpub.org/download/20161130/AEB1-11806227.pdf. [ Accessed 25th March 2021 ]

UNCTAD. (2014) Service Policy Review, Rwanda. Available at: https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/ditctncd2013d6_en.pdf. [ Accessed 23rd March 2021]

Muhirwa. (2020) Environmental Education Profile in Rwanda. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342276425_Environmental_Education_Profile_in_Rwanda. [ Accessed 23rd March 2021 ]

Gorillafund. (2012) Rwandan Children “This is Your Forest”. Available at: https://gorillafund.org/rwandan-children-this-is-your-forest/. Accessed 23rd March 2021 ]

Phiona, K. Jaya, S, Eugene, S. (2015) The Effectiveness Of Rwanda Development Board Tourism Revenue Sharing Program Towards Local Community Socioeconomic Development: A Case Study Of Nyungwe National Park. Available at: https://www.eajournals.org/wp-content/uploads/The-effectiveness-of-Rwanda-Development-Board-tourism-revenue-sharing-program-towards-local-community-socio-economic-development.pdf. [Accessed 26th March 2021 ]

Mark. (2008). Community attitudes, and behaviour towards conservation: An assessment of a community conservation programme around Lake Mburo, National Park, Uganda Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229741218_Community_attitudes_and_behaviour_towards_conservation_An_asse. [ Accessed 27th March 2021 ]

Gorillafund, (2015). New Approaches to Anti-Poaching Show Success. Available at: https://gorillafund.org/new-approaches-to-anti-poaching-show-success/. [Accessed 27th March 2021 ].

Hannah, N. Anna, S. (2016) The Success of Tourism in Rwanda: Gorillas and More. Available at: http://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/304221468001788072/930107812_201408252032416/additional/634310PUB0Yes0061512B09780821387450.pdf. [ Accessed 27th March 2021 ]