March 9, 2011
Report from Bisate, Rwanda, A Fossey Fund Conservation Action Village
Traveling up towards the volcanoes which are home to the mountain gorillas the higher altitude is evident as are the recent rains. Rain is never far away in this region and I hope it will hold off as we visit Bisate. The paved road ends and we bump our way over the volcanic rock road into the village. We are met by Ildephonse Munyarugero, manager of the Fossey Funds's Ecosystem Health and Education programs in Rwanda, and Joseph Karama, manager of conservation education programs.
First stop is the health clinic, where clinic staff and Dr. Mary Horder, an OB-GYN volunteer doctor from Atlanta, give a tour of the facilities. Each year improvements in facilities and services contribute to the public health of the many people served here each year. It seems the solar panel array and operational results contributed to the decision to build an AIDS clinic funded by the Global Fund, next door to Bisate clinic, bringing much-needed additional lab space, medicine and equipment. The Fossey Fund was also able to deliver the news that funding had been identified to begin work on additional wards for the clinic, providing space for separate facilities for woman and children and maternity services.
As in many African rural villages, the clinic is situated next door to the local school. Since education is now free to all Rwandans, school enrollments have surged and Bisate school is now on double sessions. Half the students come early in the morning and leave at lunch time and others arrive for the second session in the afternoon. The Fossey Fund has partnered with the East African Childerns' Education Fund (EACEF) to construct a new classroom block that provides light and airy classrooms for the youngest students. New roofs and gutters have also contributed to a water catchment system that benefits the whole village. The children are well behaved and happy to see visitors, and to sing and practice their English for us. Although there is much still to done to continue to improve the building infrastructure, our board members are very impressed to see first hand what they have learned only in Powerpoint presentations previously. The school is dedicated by EACEF and the Fossey Fund to the late Dr. Alecia Lilly, our former vice president of Africa programs, who was a pioneer in promoting the idea that healthy ecosystems must include services for the people who live in communities surrounding protected areas.
We finish our tour of the village as rain begins to fall and head back to Musanze for an afternoon full of presentations by the young Rwandan scientists who work at Karisoke Research Center. At the hotel, the board meeting room is full of staff scientist and visiting students from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. More on this in a later blog…