Use of non timber forest products (NTFPs) and its ecological impact on the conservation of Nyungwe forest reserve in Rwanda
The study was conducted in and around Nyungwe Forest Reserve, a mountain forest situated in the South West of Rwanda. The aim of the study was to identify Non Timber Forest Products used and their ecological impact on the conservation of Nyungwe Forest reserve. The objectives of the study were to assess the attitude and perception of local community towards forest conservation, to find out specific forest resources used by local communities, to assess their socio-economic value and the resulting impact of their harvesting to the forest. The factors affecting the use of NTFPs in the study area were also examined. To achieve this, questionnaires and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) tools were used. Data gathered were analyzed using descriptive statistics and inferential statistics such as analysis of variance (ANOVA), linear regression and logistic regression using Statistical Package of the Social Sciences (SPSS). From the study, it was established that 87% of the interviewees were for the conservation of the Nyungwe Forest Reserve because of its role in improving rainfall. The study indicated that NTFPs such as crop stakes and firewood contributed significantly to the lives of the local community. It was also established that 104 indigenous and exotic plants were being used for various purposes. The most widespread NTFPs used in the study area were crop stakes (98%), firewood (96%) and medicine (44.4% among others. The results indicated that most of forest products were being used for subsistence since the market of NTFPs was not well developed in the study area. In spite of the importance of plants collected, many of these activities were not compatible with the ecological integrity of the forest and posed a threat to conservation. This is for example the case of cutting some trees species for woodcarving and beehive making. The size of the family and size of the farm as well as the level of income were found to have significant influence on the use of NTFPs. The study recommended promotion of sustainable use of NTFPs with little minimum impact on the forest such as use of medicinal plants. Agroforestry and a conservation educational programme were also recommended for the people living around the Nyungwe Forest.