New Human Rights and Conservation Course Launches in Rwanda

The Integrated Polytechnic Regional College Kitabi (IPRC Kitabi) in Rwanda officially launched a new Human Rights and Conservation module in December 2021. This new module highlights the growing interest in Central Africa, as in other nations, in the necessity of considering the interests and needs of indigenous communities to maximize conservation efforts in protected areas. This module aims to educate future and current eco-guards and rangers on defending human rights in the actual field setting of protected area management.

Richard Nasasira, Principal of IPRC-Kitabi, speaks during the course launch. Photo courtesy of Isidore Ndagijimana, IPRC-Kitabi.

Developed with the guidance of a leading anthropologist and with input and review from a range of Central African and international interdisciplinary experts and on-the-ground practitioners, the new curriculum focuses on complex human rights issues and conservation practices and centers on the region, allowing students to reflect on real and relevant challenges playing out within Central Africa’s protected areas. IPRC Kitabi introduced the module to help improve the capacity of teaching staff, present and future eco-guards, and rangers of protected areas within the shared borders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The module aims to help students understand the issues and challenges associated with protecting human rights in the context of sustainable forest and natural resource management. The module is taught through a combination of lectures, discussions, and field trips and will also be used to train future and current eco-guards and rangers. The curriculum is holistic, exploring human rights while also touching on topics specific to human rights within protected areas. Lessons cover indigenous rights, participatory conflict resolution, economic analysis of local markets, hunting, the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) process, gender and conservation, and more. Required and suggested readings are diverse and include articles that explore specific case studies from Central Africa to ensure that the course is a contextually relevant and constructive tool for current and future conservation practitioners.

After the launch, a group of professors took a teaching tour to protected areas that will be visited by students who take the module. Photo courtesy of Isidore Ndagijimana, IPRC-Kitabi.

The representatives of the Special Guarantee Fund (SGF) and Rwanda Development Board (RDB) attended the launch in person. Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Forest Service International Programs (USFS-IP), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS), and Ecole Régionale Postuniversitaire d’Aménagement et de Gestion attended virtually. After the launch, teaching staff took field visits to communities and parks where they plan to bring students for practical experiences.

For Richard NASASIRA, the principal of IPRC Kitabi, this new module is an important part of their broader conservation education.

“This module is to provide students with the knowledge and tools necessary for integrating human rights in biodiversity conservation and natural resources management,” he said.

Students and professors from Kitabi gathered to celebrate the launch of the new course, but many also attended virtually. Photo courtesy of Isidore Ndagijimana, IPRC-Kitabi.


To date, the Human Rights and Conservation module has been made available to faculty members at IPRC Kitabi, the National School of Water and Forests in Gabon (ENEF Gabon), and the Ecole de Faune de Garoua (EFG Cameroun) through a partnership between IPRC Kitabi and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Looking ahead, in partnership with RIFFEAC, USFS and USFWS hope to expand the use of this curriculum through a MOOC system in collaboration with the Programme on African Protected Areas & Conservation (IUCN-PAPACO). This structure will make the module more directly available to forestry and environment government staff and universities across Central Africa. In addition to the human rights module, USFS and RIFFEAC have also recently launched modules on integrated landscape management and economic evaluation, with plans for the latter to be expanded into an Economic Valuation of Biodiversity master’s course. This course would help second-year master’s students explore financial concepts associated with biodiversity conservation and climate change.

The new human rights and conservation curriculum is the product of a close collaboration between USFWS and USFS programs in Central Africa, with funding support from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (USAID/CARPE). USAID’s CARPE program has worked since 1995 to help protect and preserve forests and biodiversity within the region.

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