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HAPPY WORLD FOOD DAY

Africa hunger should be a shame to all

 

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) on October 16 each year celebrates World Food Day to commemorate the day it was founded in 1945. And according to FAO, various events from marathons and hunger marches, to exhibitions, cultural performances, contests and concerts – are organised in around 130 countries across the world to celebrate this day, which makes it among the most celebrated days in the UN calendar.

Goal two of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) developed in 2016 strives for “Zero Hunger” by the year 2030. Regretfully, hunger and malnutrition remain large barriers of development in many regions, including Africa.

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Hunger has several causes, and these are always mutually inclusive. Basically, the main causes of hunger include conflict, poverty, lack of investment in agriculture, weather and climate and unstable markets.

In Africa and elsewhere poverty is the main cause of hunger. Often people living in poverty are unable to afford sufficient quantity and quality of food to enable them live healthy lives. And poverty often is a cycle!

There are many areas in Africa that suffers from incessant conflicts, like some parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Violence and conflicts may have both direct and indirect impacts on all levels of food system. This leads to food security and hunger.

 

blog_wfd_669Environmental challenges like drought and water shortages, deforestation, desertification, and soil erosion may have detrimental impact on food security. According to statistics, 2017, 23 countries experienced food crises due to climate and weather conditions. Two-thirds of these countries were in Africa, affecting approximately 32 million people.

At Virunga Community Programs we have initiated different initiatives that seek to mitigate food security in the Virunga massif. We believe that the world has enough for everyone, and human beings should just act prudently to ensure that all of us share that nature has to provide. The Virunga range has been a source of conflict, particularly in the Eastern DRC as a result of human thirst for natural resources.

food-security-2.jpgAs we continue to come up with innovative programs that will address poverty and conservation challenges in the Virunga massif, it is our hope that every one of us behaves responsibly so that we can all together address challenges of food security and hunger

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Why Hollywood Stars and Tourist Visit Uganda and Rwanda

 

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In October 2018, American rapper Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian embarked on a private visit to Uganda in what the country’s authorities described as an endorsement of its tourism resources. Arriving at Entebbe Airport, they flew, by helicopter, to Chobe safari lodge in Murchison Falls National Park in northwest Uganda.

According to The East African, the park’s waterfall is a popular tourist destination. It is where the Victoria Nile “falls” at its most dramatic and narrowest point — at 20 feet wide and 130 feet down.

3-days-trip-to-murchison-falls-tour-2-4751_0Celebrity news site TMZ released a video showing Kanye, Kim and their daughter North West at the safari lodge soon after their arrival.

Apart from this celebrity couple’s visit to a country described as “The Pearl of Africa,” several other Hollywood stars have also visited the neighbouring country, Rwanda. They include Danny Glover, Edward Norton, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Alfre Woodard, Angelina Jolie and Matt among several others in the film and music industry.

3AA1CC7E00000578-3958892-image-m-50_1479785864993While each of them has their own reasons for visiting these countries, we cannot underestimate the powers that pull them to come visiting in the first place. For instance, Rwanda has been described as the “Land of a Thousand Hills” and epitomizes stability from near annihilation.

The peace and stability currently enjoyed in Rwanda has made the country to be in the bucket list of many tourists from all over the world. They come to this region, not just to establish humanitarian projects but also to see its natural beauty like the iconic mountain gorillas that can only be trekked in the Virunga massif.

download (3)But most tellingly, the visits also validate the region as a safe haven for tourists to come and enjoy amazing tourism and cultural experiences. The two countries, Uganda and Rwanda, have invested heavily in its national parks and in its hospitality industries and it is no wonder that due to these efforts, the world is noticing and now tourism is exponentially thriving in this region.

Rwanda can boast of the prized mountain gorillas, the Volcanoes National Park, the Akagera National Park, the Canopy walk in the Nyungwe forest, its clean city and its model security that is the envy of many countries around the world.

Uganda, on the other hand, has several parks including Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and Semiliki National Park among others where you are going to see different species of plants and animals, some of them endemic to those protected areas.

crested-crane-davema-uganda1However, it’s not just to see nature that attracts several stars and generally tourists to these countries. Apart from security now enjoyed, the people also are welcoming, an Africa trait of always treating visitors as family.

The region has become attractive to tourists and visitors for much more reasons. This region has a huge tourism potential that you just have to come, see, enjoy, and experience on your own or with your family. You will have unforgettable experience here.

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HOW YOUNG MOUNTAIN GORILLA TOOK CARE OF HIS SIBLING AFTER MOTHER DEATH

 

 

 

By Joseph Ondiek

On 20 October 2018, the cruel hand of death visited the Sabyinyo gorilla family and claimed a female mountain gorilla called Kampanga. Kampanga was 35 years old when she died of natural causes, presumably of illness related to old age.

Her sickness was first reported in the year 2013 when she already had started showing some signs of weakness. Kampanga was then treated of respiratory illness that had spread to the gorilla family and affected several other gorillas.

According to an article appearing in the Gorilla Doctors website, due to the severity of Kampanga’s clinical signs, park authorities and veterinarians agreed that an intervention was warranted.  However, due to the risk of a full anesthetic event, they decided to dart her with an antibiotic and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.

But what is interesting is that immediately upon her demise in her Volcanoes National Park habitat, which is part of the wider Virunga massif where the remaining 1004 mountain gorillas can be found, her young son Ikerekezo immediately took over the responsibility of taking care of his younger siblings, notably Icyemezo as seen in video taken from the park. Kampanga had 7 babies at the time of her death.

Icyemezo, which means “Decision” was only given the name in 2016 during the Kwita Izina ceremony where 21 other baby gorillas were also named.

IMG-20181103-WA0010Mountain gorillas have been known to show intelligent characteristics of human beings and Ikerekezo’s action to show kindness and tender loving care to his siblings goes a long way in confirming that these iconic primates live a social life and they also can take care of each other when tragedy like death strikes family.

In a video seen by the writer, Ikerekezo can be seen snuggling his younger baby brother at a time when it was heavily raining in the park. He hides the baby under his stomach, just like mother hen does to her younger chicks, and when the rain is over, he leads him to a warmer place so that they can seek shelter together

“It’s just amazing how these gorillas just socially behave like human beings. I’ve seen them going out to help their kith and kin who are in trouble in the many years I’ve worked as a tour guide in the Virunga massif,” says a tour guide who didn’t want to be named because he was not the spokesman of his company.

The action by Ikerekezo to take care of his younger brother can be seen in the context of the behavior of wider gorilla families. According to an article, “ How Does a Gorilla Father Treat His Children” appearing in an online journal called Social Life, young animals always search out the group leader who usually is their father as well. They frequently stay close to him, they lean on him and include him in their games. For them a close relationship with their father can be vital. He protects the infants and his care increases their chances of survival if their mother dies or if she leaves the group. In such a case the silverback male is usually the only one who looks after them intensively. He even all allows them to sleep in his nest.

IMG-20181103-WA0005However, at the time Ikerekezo was bravely shielding his brother from torrential rains that of late have been pounding the gorilla habitat in this part of the Virunga massif, the dominant silverback was nowhere to be seen, and presumably Ikerekezo took it upon himself to protect his younger brother, just like we have seen in the human being families when older siblings take it upon their shoulders to take care of their younger siblings in times of trouble.

On the other hand, according to the article, silverbacks have been observed to deliberately kill babies – especially in mountain gorillas. Usually this is the case after a female transferred to another male together with her baby or if a new leading male takes over. This behaviour, called infanticide, is interpreted as a means to shorten the time until the baby’s mother becomes fertile again and the new male can sire his own offspring with her.

“Ikerekezo took over the responsibility of his dead mother and this shows how he is kind and responsible at a young age. May be one day when he comes of age, he also will be a dominant silverback and have his own family because he has also through this act exhibited leadership skills,” says the local guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANNOUNCEMENT

 

Virunga Community Programs is writing this letter to inform you that the meeting that was to be between 5th and 8th November 2018 has been postponed indefinitely due to the outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are going to duly communicate as we are working on a new date to hold the meeting.

As there were some important discussions to be discussed in the meeting, it has not been canceled and is just postponed. We understand the trouble cause to you because of this sudden change. I once again apologize to you on behalf of our organization for this sudden change.

 

Thanking you

5 DAYS GORILLA TRACKING AND WILDLIFE (NEW)

Meet the Batwa pygmies, go mountain gorilla trekking, go on a boat cruise and enjoy exciting game drives in Uganda!

DAY 1: KIGALI – BWINDI IMPENETRABLE
Our driver guide will pick you up from the airport and transfer you on a 3-hour car journey via the Gatuna Border to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Proceed to Buhoma for your lunch, followed by a Batwa (Pygmies) community walk in the evening. Enjoy dinner and spend the night at your lodge.

Duration: 3 hours

Activity: Bwindi Transfer

Accommodation: Mahogany Springs Lodge / Gorilla Forest Camp

Meal Plan: Full board: Dinner, Lunch, Bed & breakfast.

IMG_20180325_132357_624 (1)DAY 2: GORILLA TRACKING
Wake up very early in the morning for your breakfast. Afterwards, you will proceed to the National Park headquarters to meet your guides for the day. After completing the necessary formalities at the park, we will embark on an unforgettable mountain gorilla tracking expedition. Once you spot them, you will be able to spend an hour watching your long-lost cousin in his natural habitat. Return to your hotel for lunch, dinner and overnight.

Duration: 3 hours

Activity: Gorilla Tracking in Uganda’s Bwindi Forest

Accommodation: Mahogany Springs Lodge / Gorilla Forest Camp

Meal Plan: Full board: Dinner, Lunch, Bed & breakfast.

DAY 3: DEPART FOR QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
After breakfast, we will drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park and reach Mweya at midday, a place with a stunningly beautiful view over the Kazinga Channel. You will check in at your accommodation and have lunch. Late in the afternoon (4.00- 7.00pm), we will go on a game drive. You will then enjoy dinner and rest at your lodge.

Duration: 5hrs

Activities: afternoon game drive

Accommodation: Pumba Safari Cottages

Meal Plan: Dinner, Lunch, Bed & Breakfast

28272_Digital_Promo_Assets_Circle_enGB_rebrand-03DAY 4: QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
This day will be spent on a game drive on the plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park, where thousands of Ugandan kobs, lions, elephants, etc. will pose for the camera. Also in the programme is a 2-hour cruise on the Kazinga Channel where we will see all the animals from the waterside. Dinner and overnight at your lodge.

Duration: 5hrs

Activities: Full day Game drive + Kazinga channel boat ride

Accommodation: Pumba Safari Cottages

Meal Plan: Dinner, Lunch, Bed & Breakfast

DAY 5: QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK – KIGALI AIRPORT
Early in the morning, we depart with a game drive en route to Kigali, and then cross the Gatuna Border for your homebound flight.

Duration: 5hrs

Activities: Airport transfer

Meal Plan: Bed & Breakfast

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 Top Attractions in the Virunga Conservation Area

The mountain gorillas, which can only be found in the Virunga range of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda needs no introduction to any adventurous tourist who visits east and central Africa. Apart from coming to see the Big 5 in Akagera National Park, most tourists also come to the Virunga to trek the mountain gorillas.

However, the Virunga range is not all about these incredible primates. There’s still a lot to see and experience here, and your vacation is going to be most exciting if you can take time to adventure into some of these attraction sites. Ecotourism also has taken a lead in the Virunga range, and you will not only see and trek animals here but experience the local people’s culture.

 

IMG_2491 Virunga Community Programs has compiled to you a list of other alternative attractions to see and experience.

 

  1. Golden Monkeys

You may also trek so as to see the golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda). Golden monkeys, just like the mountain gorillas, live in groups. And different groups also have been habituated for trekking. You can contact Virunga Community Programs about trekking golden monkeys and the cost of permit. But one thing for sure, trekking golden monkeys is going to be a memorable adventure.

 

  1. The Virunga’s mountains

 

Tourism in the Virunga massif is not only about wildlife. You are also going to enjoy hiking the volcanoes. This amazing conservation range is home to eight volcanic mountains, which two of them are active (Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo), both found in the DRC at the heart of Virunga National Park.

From instance, according to Volcano Live, an online magazine,  Nyiragongo volcano is one of the most active in Africa. It is noted for long active lava lakes which appear in the summit crater. The volcano is located near the town of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Apart from these, there are also six non-active volcanoes namely Mikeno, Bisoke, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura.

Tourists may participate in hiking any of the above mentioned volcanoes whose peaks offer clear and panoramic view of the neighboring communities. Researchers have indicated that hiking these mountains is a lifetime experience.

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  1. The Batwa Pigmies in Uganda and DRC

 

You also can take time to visit the Batwas when you want to learn the rich history of these ancient forest dwellers. They lived in forests before the introduction of tourism and the national parks were gazetted. They were later evicted to the boundaries of the forest, and forced to adapt to lifestyle they were not only used to but also uncomfortable with. The Batwa, while interacting with them, introduce tourists to their traditional forest life which include fruit gathering, making fires, stories, songs, poems, hunting and dances. So as to improve their standard of living, different activities like the Buniga forest walks and the Batwa cultural trail have been introduced. The community takes the lead in the activities that earn them a living they use to sustain their livelihoods and support their families. You are going to feel like part of the Batwa community when you participate in these activities.

 

  1. The Dian Fossey Grave

 

IMG_9831You also may visit the grave of Dian Fossey. Dian Fossey was an American conservationist and primatologist who is reputed to have begun gorilla tourism in the Virunga range because of rampant poaching at that time. In 1968, she came to the area in order to conserve the endangered gorillas. Dian Fossey made her home in the slopes of Mount Bisoke from where she conducted her studies and research so as to protect these endangered species. But because of her work, particularly her campaign against poaching, Dian Fossey was killed after 18 years. Her grave has become a tourist attraction site.

 

IMG_20180325_132357_624 (1)The Virunga massif should be in your bucket list for your next east and central Africa adventure. You are not only going to trek the amazing mountain gorillas but also the golden monkeys while you also have a lifetime experience seeing other sites and hiking the volcanoes. The Virunga Community Programs is going to ensure you enjoy your experience to the maximum.

 

 

6 Funny Facts About The Mountain Gorillas

Most tourists come to the Virunga massif with only one intention: to trek the mountain gorillas. Yes, these primates have become like tourism holy grail to the three countries; Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that share the vast Virunga range.

Mountain gorillas are endangered species, with only 1004 of them estimated to be remaining on earth, according to the latest census. But every year, increasing number of tourists come to these countries for gorilla trekking, and they still cannot get enough of these amazing animals. Is gorilla trekking in your bucket list this year? Virunga Community Programs will ensure that you do have a good experience with the animals when you book your gorilla trekking with us to see them in all the three countries. The following are some interesting facts about the mountain gorillas.IMG_2494

 

  1. They live in forested mountains

As their name suggests, they live in the mountains, and these mountains are forested. They sometimes climb up the peak of these mountains. Virunga Community Programs advises that when you are doing mountain gorilla safaris, you should be ready to hike through forested mountains. However, this shouldn’t scare you since they live on relatively lower slopes and they can be tracked for shorter periods of time, normally between one and two hours.

  1. They feed predominantly on plant leaves and bamboo shoots

Mountain gorillas are vegetarians. They spend most of their time feeding on leaves and bamboo shoots. Sometimes they sit and grab all the edible leaves their arms can reach. They also eat wild fruits. The baby gorillas breastfeed till they reach a reasonable age when they are able to begin feeding on their own.

  1. They live in families and groups of their choice

 

Mountain gorillas live in families or groups ranging between 10 and 30 or even more. The families are led by a silverback, which is a dominant male gorilla which fights hard to protect the family. When a male mountain gorilla feels that it is strong enough, it will fight hard to get females and when possible it will leave the main group to begin a new life.

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  1. They are very aggressive if provoked

 

These are very peaceful animals. However, try provoking it. That is when you are going to see its bestial side. When people are in their presence, they will continue relaxing or feeding. They will move away to keep a reasonable distance with tourists. But do not provoke them in any way. They are quite strong and when disturbed may lose their temper and attack. Therefore, to avoid any fracas with them, Virunga Community Programs recommend that you should keep a reasonable distance away when you go tracking them (This is normally 7 meters). Also avoid aping their habits like chest beating since this would appear you are challenging them to a fight. Do not make a lot of noise and do not also use flash photography.

  1. They are mobile animals

They normally move from one place to another in search of fresh foods. They therefore don’t have a permanent place to call home. Instead they build new sleeping nests every day where they are going to sleep that night. It’s among the reasons why trekking them normally involves moving since they are also on the move.

 

  1. They are prone to human diseases

 

Mountain gorillas have 98% DNA similar to human being. They may therefore easily contract human diseases such as flu and several other communicable illnesses within a short period of time. This is why there’s a cap on the number of tourists (8) visiting a gorilla family in a day and strictly spending only one hour with them.

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Going for a gorilla trekking safari in DRC, Rwanda and Uganda is an exciting and memorable experience. But you should take necessary precaution before starting your tour. Virunga Community Programs Staff is going to adequately prepare you for your trekking by giving you necessary advice prior to your excursion into the mountainous forests.