Caution is advised – this is a positive non #COVID19 piece of news

Akagera News January – March 2020
© SCOTT RAMSAY
Welcome to our first quarterly newsletter of 2020. The long wet season rains have arrived, but they never really stopped with the park receiving unprecedented rainfall in the past few months; January and February both reached record levels for the past ten years. With April usually being the wettest month of the year it seems the rains are set to continue but between the rain there have been glorious sunny days with clear blue skies and those endless Akagera views…
As we are issuing this newsletter the global pandemic of the Corona virus cannot be ignored. At this stage the park is open and receiving visitors however the Government of Rwanda are taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously recently announcing the halting of flights in and out of Rwanda for 30 days from Friday 20th March. Already there has been an increase in vigilance in high tourism areas with measures in place to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. All guests and staff entering the park on a daily basis are screened by a team of medical staff. Handwashing stations, alcohol sanitizers and posters on preventative measures are available at the reception, as well as the lodges and offices, and staff have been briefed by medical personnel. We are encouraging the visitors to use cashless transactions for payment. We have decided to close the northern café temporarily, which had only opened very recently, and we have chosen to reduce the number of staff working in Akagera at this time. The situation is obviously evolving rapidly and the knowledge and guidelines changing day by day. With regards to the park we will be sharing any relevant information on our social media platforms and encourage everyone to adhere to the guidelines provided by national Governments and to the recommendations of the World Health Organisation. We have implemented some temporary changes to our cancelation policy for the park, as well as Ruzizi Tented Lodge and Karenge Bush Camp, to allow flexibility for booked guests to change their plans so please contact us if you have a trip coming up that will be effected by COVID-19 and the flight restrictions.
In other news! The Akagera Community Centre has been busy; two dormitories are under construction which will allow school groups to visit Akagera from further afield and several trainings took place in the last months. A group of six women together with Akagera staff learned how to construct three special mushroom growing huts at the Community Centre. Kigali Farms provided training on growing the protein-rich oyster mushrooms and just two weeks later the women harvested their first crop! A cooking demonstration was held in celebration of the first harvest and they have already found markets for their produce in the lodges in Akagera. The project will not only provide the women with an additional income, but also contribute to improved nutritional status in the community.
The first harvest of mushrooms from Akagera Community Centre. Photo Credit: Evelien Janssen
We partnered with Gardens for Health to train 24 community members and health advisors of four villages on essential nutrition and agriculture knowledge to improve their family’s health. Easy to remember tools like the One-Pot One-Hour concept and the Four Colour Wheel used by Gardens for Health saves time and resources and helps families to select ingredients for a nutrient-packed meal. In the field the group built a kitchen garden using simple, effective techniques to fertilize the soil and treat plant diseases organically. The participants were selected with the help of health advisors who identified families where children are at risk of, or diagnosed as, malnourished. There will be a refresher training in two months and evaluation discussions in six months. A pre- and post-test is done to see learning progress. We believe the training will contribute to improve the health of the trainees and their families, and we hope that they will proudly show the certificates and share the newly acquired knowledge and skills to their families, neighbours and friends.
Proudly showing their certificates following Gardens for Health training
Akagera hosted a successful four-day training camp for four CEOs and six rangers from four different countries who will participate in the 2020 London Marathon as part of the African Parks Race for Good initiative. Sadly the London Marathon, which was scheduled to take place next month, has been postponed as a result of COVID-19 and is now planned for October 2020. The training camp itself was an eye opening experience for the rangers from Malawi, Benin and Chad, some of whom saw zebra and giraffe for the first time and were able to interact with their peers from different parks, it was a wonderful bonding experience and they are excited about the opportunity to run together later this year.
Race for Good CEOs following a training run with Akagera’s rangers and canine unit. Photo credit: Lindsey Tainton Watcham
Akagera community team organized training at Shakani Campsite for 22 environmental teachers and E-club mentors from 11 schools from around Akagera National Park. This was carried out as part of the park’s environmental education programme which sees 2000 children visit the park each year. The aim of the training was to promote education that teaches children to seek and adopt values, which enable them to live in harmony with others and their environment. The community team also received three community liaison managers from the three parks in Malawi under African Parks management; Liwonde Natioanl Park, Nkhotakota National Park and Majete Game Reserve. They visited to learn about Akagera’s community projects and participated in monthly Umuganda. Umuganda is Rwanda’s monthly community service initiative which African Parks is rolling out in all their projects. The last two Umuganda collaborations have seen AMC staff join the community of Kiyovu cell, Ndego to dig anti-erosion trenches and help to build a house for a poor family in Mukoyoyo cell.
Akagera Community and Law enforcement team ready for Umuganda
We are happy to welcome some new members of staff to the Akagera team. Clementine Uwamahoro has been appointed as Conservation Technology Officer and Drew Bantlin as Conservation and Research Manager. Clementine worked in Akagera in 2014 – 2016 as GIS specialist before leaving to further her studies in China. Having completed her Masters at the China University of Mining and Technology last year she returned to Rwanda. Her new role will involve programming of conservation applications, up-keep of the LoRa network and radio systems and working towards a fully integrated conservation technology solution for the park. Drew Bantlin has been recruited into the new position of Conservation and Research manager. Drew is very familiar with the park having been invovled as a researcher and volunteer. His role will involve facilitating and managing conservation research, data collection and ecological monitoring for the park.
Sightings have been good recently, despite the long grass. A pride of 11 lions have been based in the south of the park with regular sightings by tourists. Check out our social media handles, links below, and hashtag #OurAkagera for some of our own, and guests, sightings! Take care of yourselves and each other, and stay healthy!

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