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BATS: Biodiversity Analysis and Technical Support
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The volcanic highlands of this trans-boundary region of east-central Africa are characterized by tremendous biodiversity and challenging dynamics with local communities that are in need of resources and which are among the most densely populated on the continent. Containing four national parks, including two World Heritage Sites, this landscape is characterized by high altitude volcanic mountain chains containing a high level of endemism and the only mountain gorilla populations on Earth. Instability and insecurity over the years, including the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the long running civil war, and continued unrest, in Congo, have hampered progress in natural resource management, enforcement, and monitoring. Nevertheless, as the region and the world hope for a sustained and peaceful future, opportunities exist to improve resource protection, livelihoods, and economic opportunities.

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Watershed Assessment and Water Resource Protection
Since 2005, the US Forest Service has been providing technical expertise to perform an assessment of the watersheds of the Virunga Mountains region aimed at supplying rural communities with reliable and clean water. Located in the Albertine rift, a region of enormous biodiversity importance to the world, the Virunga Mountains have one of the highest human population densities on the continent. Communities surrounding the parks suffer from a lack of access to reliable water sources, forcing them to encroach upon the parks in search of water, increasing the pressures upon this unique and fragile ecosystem. Capitalizing on the broad level of expertise contained within the USFS and gained over many years of managing landscapes at the watershed level, the International Gorilla conservation program (IGCP) has partnered with the USFS for the provision of technical assistance to help find solutions to the water supply problem of the area. IGCP wants to better engage the local community in conservation efforts, and sees potable water as an entry point to help local people understand the importance of the forest and the need to protect and conserve.

In April 2008, USFS technical experts traveled to the Virungas to provide guidance on structuring an analysis of the hydrology of the region, with a particular focus on the improvement of the water supply for local communities. The specific goals of this mission were as follows:

  1. Evaluate the overall state of water resources in Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks;
  2. Identify appropriate methods for surveying water sources of sufficient quantity and quality for local communities, wildlife, and forest ecosystems. Perform on-the-ground surveying of water sources with IGCP staff in as many areas as possible, given time constraints;
  3. Assess, to the greatest extent possible, the demand on water resources by local communities and forest ecosystems;
  4. Provide recommendations on sustainable management of the source areas in order to assure long term water availability;
  5. Present a half-day workshop for local natural resource managers on water resource issues and recommendations for the region.

The USFS team consisted of Jason Gritzner (Hydrologist, Idaho Panhandle National Forests ), Joe Gurrieri (Regional Geologist, Intermountain Region), and Kame Westerman (Africa Program Specialist, International Programs). While two days were spent in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park assessing the Rugezi swamp and water projects in the Kisoro area, the majority of time was spent in and around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Additional information about the findings of the mission and their recommendations can be found in the Trip Report entitled “ Continued Support to the International Gorilla Conservation Program in Analyzing the Region’s Watersheds for Water Supplies to Local Communities: An Addendum to the 2005 Mission, Mission Dates: March 31–April 14, 2008,” available on the FRAME Website:

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