Gishwati Forest

Mentor a child to protect the threatened National Parks and Wildlife Reserves

Save Children Save Environment

Gishwati Forest is a protected reserve in the north-western part of Rwanda, not far from Lake Kivu. The reserve’s forests were largely intact in 1978, and substantial forest cover still remained in 1986.[1] During the Rwandan genocide, wave after wave of refugees arrived in Gishwati Forest and began clearing it, often for subsistence farming. By 2001, only a small circular patch of native forest remained, 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) of the forest’s original 250,000.[1] In addition to tremendous loss of biodiversity, the region experiences soil erosion and degradation and landslides.[1] Reforestation efforts in the past few years have increased the remnant native forest to about 2,500 acres (10 km2).[1] Large tea estates occupy the central and northern parts of the reserve


The Gishwati Forest used to be one piece in a complex system of rainforests through the middle of Africa. It used to extend west beyond Lake Kivu connecting with the rainforests of the Congo, and south connecting with Nyungwe Forest.These forest systems have become fragmented due to population increase and deforestation. The Rwandan genocide put strain on the site as refugees fled and the population increased as people were displaced from their homes; however the area had faced years of degradation prior to the Rwandan genocide. The area was degraded for cattle ranching and agriculture until it became unproductive. Erosion, landslides, reduced water quality, and soil infertility had resulted from this degradation of the land.

The Gishwati Area Conservation Program (GACP) began in 2007 with the collaboration of Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and Great Ape Trust, founded by philanthropist Ted Townsend. The initiative began with the idea of creating a national conservation park in Rwanda to protect the biodiversity of the Gishwati Forest area and stop some of the rapid degradation. In 1930 the Gishwati Forest covered 70,000 acres but lost about 90 percent of its cover, this initiative aimed to restore the dramatic loss the area has seen over the last decade and therefore named the site the Forest of Hope.[3] In 2011, the GACP was succeeded by a Rwandan non-governmental organization known as the Forest of Hope Association,[4] which is currently managing the Gishwati Forest Reserve (GFR).

Since the Forest of Hope has been in place there has been a 67 percent increase in size of the Gishwati Forest. The local chimpanzee population has grown and many research and conservation initiatives have been employed within the reserve. The Gishwati Area Conservation Program began with the hopes that down the road the Rwandan government would take over the area make it a national park. Some government actions and press coverage suggests that GFR will be promoted to national park status in the near future

Make a gift to protect Africa’s most vulnerable species.
Scroll to Top