This is a protected reserve which is found in the north western part of Rwanda near Lake Kivu. This forest was largely intact in 1978 as well 1986 until when the genocide refugees arrived in this reserve and began to clear it for substance farming purposes. The forests which was originally 250,000 acres, remained only 1,500 acres since most of the forest area was cleared for agriculture. There was also great loss of biodiversity as well as degradation, landslides, as well as soil erosion. Despite all these disturbances, reforestation efforts have been put in Place which has helped in increasing on the acres of the forest from 1500 to 2,500 acres, this forest is also occupied by large tea estates both in the central and in the northern parts.
This forest used to be one piece of complex rain forest in the middle of Africa. It was extending beyond Lake Kivu and also connecting with the rain forests of Congo, as well as Nyungwe Forest. The Gishwati Area Conservation Program began in 2007 when the Great Ape Trust collaborated with Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, this resulted in to the foundation of this initiative with the idea of creating a national conservation park in the country to protect the biodiversity of the Gishwati Forest area as well as controlling deforestation. Within a short time, the forest reserve had recovered 70000 acres of its plant cover. The initiative mainly aimed at restoring loss of the area that had been destroyed over the past decade of years. The forest was named the forest of Hope and the GACP was later succeeded by Rwanda Government organization commonly known as Forest of Hope Association and it’s now managing Gishwati Forest Reserve.
Since then, the forest of hope has increased in size by 67%, this has also increased the chimpanzee population as well as the conservation initiatives which have been employed within the reserve. It’s also said that this forest reserve will one day be promoted into a national park to provide protection to the many wildlife species found in this area.
Due to the severe deforestation which took place in the reserve, there was also great loss of biodiversity were by fauna declined by 99.7%, flora also declined as well as wild fruits which declined by 93%, the vegetation by 99.6% and the local medicine declined by 79% which has affected the forest reserve.
This forest reserve has 58 species of trees and shrubs which also include; hard woods as well as bamboo. The macaranga Kilimand scharica is the species of trees that have not been disturbed by deforestation. The other flora found in the reserve include the blue Lichen as well as the giant tree ferns. This forest reserve has also got a wide range of fauna which include; four primate species including the golden monkeys, Eastern Chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s Monkeys as well as the blue monkeys. There is also the black and white colobus which have been seen, the reserve harbors 20 east African chimpanzees including their infants. The other mammal species include; the river hog, the southern tree hyrax, black front duiker as well as the felis aurata.
The other fauna species found in this reserve include; 84 species of birds like white headed wood hoopoe, mountain yellow warbler, old word warblers etc. there are also many brown forest frog with lots of toads which are the amphibians found in the forest. The reptile species found in the area include; the bush viper, chameleons and many more.
This forest is also a livelihood of many Rwandans who live around Gishwati since this forest helps with maintaining the topsoil’s fertility and also keeps it from eroding away. The reserve will in future provide the Rwandan economy with profits from biodiversity and ecotourism found in the area. Many organizations have come up to help with the conservation of the forest including; the Great Ape Trust which has planted many tree species in the forest, and it’s a nonprofit international reforestation foundation that was founded by the late singer John Denver.