A few days ago we received a welcome visit from our colleagues, Yves and Bizuru, from the Biology Department of the University of Rwanda. We had a chance to show them the institute here and what we could offer to their students.
This visit was a result of various past discussions and invitations. In early January we had visited the University of Rwanda in Butare and had met with various of the biology and environmental sciences staff there. They have a great campus.
The University of Rwanda has been planning and developing a new two year MSc course in Conservation and we had been discussing if they might use ITFC and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest as a base for a first year field course with the students. After that it might even be a site where some of their second year field projects could be done. While the course is expected to appeal mainly to Rwandan students it will be open to other countries too. We were told that some Congolese were expected to enrole.
The University of Rwanda staff Yves and Bizuru (right and left) with Douglas and Miriam take a walk in Bwindi
We are keen that ITFC can play a bigger role in capacity building in the region. The chance to collaborate across international borders is attractive. This is especially true because so many of the conservation issues here are also international in nature (the protected areas which straddle international boundaries, and the mountain gorillas and other animals which happily walk across borders). Of course many of the major challenges are shared too: such as the high human densities around protected areas. What a wonderful vision if students are already able to directly grasp and question the issues from the viewpoint of a neighbouring country!
But why would Rwandans want to come to Uganda for a course like this? Indeed, though Rwanda is a small country, it has some notable forests of its own. The forests of Nyungwe, Volcanoes and Gishwati are all places of considerable interest. What ITFC has, and Rwanda does not, is an institute with physical infrastructure in the forest. We have facilities that can deal with 20-30 students … it is only 2 hours by road to the Rwanda border.
So Yves and Bizuru had, at our invitation, decided to drop in a take a look at ITFC for themselves. We showed them around, chatted about their new course and watched the l’Hoest’s and Colobus monkeys together. They seemed to enjoy it. We hope so.
There are various practical questions still to be clarified before we’ll know if the Rwandan students will come. One good piece of news is that the new MSc course has now received official approval to go ahead. Whatever the outcome we look forward to playing a role in developing the regional conservation leaders of the future and to collaborating with our cross-border colleagues.