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Bringing Water to Bisate

Standing in front of the water tanks are: Tharcisse Ndagijimana, supervising engineer; Felix Ndagijimana, Karisoke Research Center; and Aline Umutoni and Ingrid Baas of Wilderness Safaris.
Photo: Cedric Ujeneza/DFGF

When the pipes that delivered water to their villages began to fail, 4,489 people from six villages in Bisate, just outside of the Volcanoes National Park, found their clean water supply at risk. The entire system was originally installed by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund 10 years ago, but both the Bunyenyeri pipeline and the Bushokoro infrastructure—the intake area inside the park—were damaged and in need of rehabilitation. There wasn’t enough water during the dry season, and because the taps were broken, what water there was could not be turned off.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund joined forces with Bisate Lodge of Wilderness Safaris and, using funding provided by guests of the Lodge, took on the work of updating the system in order to ensure that villagers would not need to go into the forest for water and to decrease the time they spent gathering water.

“This project fits well with our people-centered approach to conservation,” says Dr. Tara Stoinski, CEO and chief scientist for the Fossey Fund. “We know that when we support nearby communities through programs that improve access to education, livelihood initiatives and clean water, gorillas also reap the benefits. Healthy human communities are good for the surrounding wild habitat as well.”

At Bushokoro, where the intake area was damaged, we constructed a new intake area further up the volcano, which allows the people of Bisate to collect water year round. We also installed larger pipes, increasing the amount of water available to the villages. The Bunyenyeri pipeline’s damaged pipes were replaced, and new taps were installed for both systems. Four additional taps were added, enabling more people to collect water at the same time.

Since the water system was first installed 10 years ago, the number of people entering the park has decreased and during the last water collector’s survey in 2017 no residents of these villages were found entering the park. The positive impacts of this type of intervention are many, including decreasing the time people spend in gathering water, reducing the risk of human-wildlife disease transmission and preserving the habitat of the endangered mountain gorilla.

“This collaboration with Bisate Lodge is just one example of how the work the Fossey Fund does on the ground helps improve the communities surrounding the gorilla habitat while protecting the gorillas themselves,” says Felix Ndagijimana, director of Rwanda programs and the Karisoke Research Center. “This rehabilitation project will benefit both humans and gorillas for years to come.”