The National Herbarium of Rwanda conducts field expedition for plant collecting at Karongi remnant forests

#MURANGWA Darius 13-01-2021

The National Herbarium of Rwanda in collaboration with the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR)/ Environment Museum-Karongi conducted a two-day field sampling trip in December 2020 along the shoreline in the remnant natural forests at Karongi (Nyakarwa peninsula and Mariri savannah). The trip presented a twofold purpose : First to investigate a region that has not yet been well sampled botanically and to collect specimens from the unique remnant forests along the shore to complete and enrich the existing collections in the National Herbarium of Rwanda.

Karongi harbors riparian zones and islands in Kivu Lake that are rich in biodiversity. Those remnant natural habitats are not included in natural reserve habitats although they are ecologically unique. Two sites were investigated during this trip, Mariri and Nyakarwa forests which are dominated by indigenous plant species.

The trip brought the mushroom collection that was created by Emmanuel Munyaneza, staff of the Environment Museum-Karongi to the National Herbarium to be catalogued and digitized. The INMR is a node of the CoEB and this collecting trip represents the first of what is hoped are many more collaborations between the two institutions.

The National Herbarium of Rwanda (NHR) was officially established in 1933 but since 1915 botanical specimens were being collected by early explorers in Rwanda and surrounding areas of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. The collection has now over 17,000 plant samples in addition to 53,000 type specimens stored in other international Herbaria worldwide. Historically, the NHR was initiated by the former Institut de Recherche Scientifique en Afrique Centrale (IRSAC) which later became the Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IRST) and subsequently the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA). It is now managed by the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management (CoEB) at the College of Science and Technology (CST), University of Rwanda.

The CoEB started a project funded by Sud Expert Plantes Développement Durable (SEP2D)/IRD to revitalize the National Herbarium in August 2018 and to make data available in a computerized data management system through a web portal that is open and accessible worldwide.

The Museum also generously offered more than 100 specimens of mushrooms to enrich the National Herbarium of Rwanda. The expedition team was made of Director of Research and Innovation in CST and CoEB Research Associate Prof. Elias Bizuru, Emmanuel Munyaneza from Environmental Museum/Karongi, and five CoEB staff members from the National Herbarium including Vedaste Minani, Jean de Dieu Brave Yambabariye, Valentine Manishimwe, Pascal Sibomana and Joselyne Barakagwira.

Story by Joselyne Barakagwira
CoEB staff