New Rwanda environment museum struggles to find its footing

Rwanda’s Museum of Environment, which was launched late last month, is facing many hurdles.

The facility, which sits on 1.72 hectares (72 square kilometre) in Karongi District (former Kibuye) in Western Province, has only three qualified staff.

The facility is in need of more qualified staff to serve in vital fields such as environment management, climate change, botany and energy, according to John Bosco Safari, the museum’s acting manager.

“We believe that if we employ three more staff members operations at the museum will run more smoothly,” said Mr Safari.

The Institute of National Museums of Rwanda has more than 150 permanent and contracted staff at its various museums. However, the institute lacks enough qualified personnel, especially archaeologists, who would play a vital role in research and development of Rwandan heritage sites and museums.

Besides being the main channel through which domestic and foreign visitors learn about environmental conservation and protection, the environment museum plans to use its position as Africa’s first facility dedicated to protection of Nature to attract more revenue through tourism.

Its conference facility, which seats more than 300 guests, is targeting regional and international conferences, especially those on environmental affairs, said Alphonse Umulisa, the INMR director-general. The museum is also eyeing local and foreign learning institutions, individual researchers and research institutions.

Some Rwf1.3 billion went into the construction of the museum, which is on the shores of Lake Kivu, and Rwf500 million into furnishing.

It has three sections, including the exhibition area, where visitors learn about the various forms of renewable and non-renewable energy such as solar energy formation and harvesting. Here are found solar panels weighing 200 kilogrammes each and worth Rwf70 million apiece, a donation from the Natural Museum in Germany.

One of the two-storey buildings is the administration block and conference complex while the other hosts a herbal plants garden that has 27 species.

Outside one of the buildings is a water recycling and purification system for teaching about water conservation and protection.

The museum joins other sites such as the Lake Kivu islands and shores, the Kivu methane extraction project and other natural features like Karongi’s mountainous landscape as tourist attractions.

However, it still needs to install more significant visual platforms to enable it educate the public on the environment.

“The available exhibition system works quite well but more needs to be installed to enable effective research and learning,” noted Julien Uwacu, the Minister for Sports and Culture.

The museum management plans to partner with traditional medicine experts to ensure more medicinal plants are identified and conserved in its gardens and also utilise the knowledge of administering treatment using natural herbs.

Mr Safari said the museum further plans to acquire more land so as to add more than 100 species of herbs to the garden.

Since the inauguration of the museum formerly known as Musee National du Rwanda, in Butare (now Huye District), Southern Province, in 1989, INMR has expanded to seven museums.

Revenue from the museums rose from Rwf27 million to Rwf30 million.

The other national museums in the country are the King’s Palace, in Butare the Natural Art Gallery and the Ethnographic Museum, both in Huye the Museum of Natural History (Kandt House) and the Presidential Palace Museum, both in Kigali and the Open-Air Museum (Umulindi w’Intwari).