Rwanda Environment Management Authority and the Rwanda Development Board have signed an agreement with QA Venue Solutions to open and manage Nyandungu Eco-Park which can now be visited effective July 8, 2022.
The once degraded wetland brings to Kigali city the largest green space that constitutes an educational and recreational eco-park totaling 121 hectares.
Divided into five sectors that stretch mainly along the Kigali-Rwamagana highway, the Eco park includes 17,000 trees made up of 55 indigenous species and a medicinal garden with 50 species.
It also features the Pope’s Garden right from the place where Pope John Paul II stood while reading the mass surrounded by thousands of catholic church followers. The Head of Roman Catholic Church was in visit to Rwanda in September 1994.
Meanwhile, Nyandungu further includes five catchment ponds, three recreation ponds, an information centre, a restaurant as well as 10km of walkways and bike lanes.
In the next six months, the managing company will first allow the visitors to come and visit while working on pricing and a booking system that will be communicated.
They will also identify potential opportunities that would bring an additional recreation package for the visitors, without affecting the conservation gains in the restored wetland.
The trial phase will lead to the possibility to sign a much wider contract with the managing company for five years or more.
“The initial phase of this partnership is really to understand the park, something that requires a great attention to find a balance between maintaining and preserving the wetland but also having the community engage with the wetland,” said Kyle Schofield, Managing Director, QA Venue Solutions which also manages BK Arena.
“What the government did was first of all to make sure that the restoration is done, now the new question is how do you maintain it, how do you operate it, how do you have a team that works day and night to make sure that those who want to visit do come,” said Zephanie Niyonkuru, Deputy CEO of Rwanda Development Board(RDB) at the signing.
Nyandungu eco park history can be traced in 2016 when the Government of Rwanda through the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) developed the Nyandungu restoration project to respond to environement challenges and demonstrate the potential of wetlands to abate pollution and reduce the risk of flooding in urban areas.
The project was funded by the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) with support from the UK Government, the Italian Government through the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the UN Environment Programme, at a tune of Rwf 4.5 billion.
According to Juliet Kabera, the Director General of REMA said: “As REMA and RDB, it’s part of our mission to supervise activities like this, and other parks. Having an investor who would make this productive does not mean that we are pulling out. We shall continue to follow up, making sure that they do not introduce things that may undermine conservation efforts that were invested here.”
The official said, that they will have a committee including members from RDB, City of Kigali and FONERWA as key sponsor so that they continue to follow it up and to bring forward suggestions on how the eco park can be put to good use.
Already, some ideas are being explored and they include building a chapel at the other side of the road that would connect with Pope’s garden.
Also, there is a possibility to work with Gura ride which gives public rise bike sharing scheme.
Nyandungu wetland ecosystem was restored in six year and its main objective it to promote sustainable management of natural resources. It has created approximately 4,000 green jobs.
The management of the eco park is expected to create another 200 jobs, according to RDB’s Niyonkuru.
Photos by Eric Ruzindana