With the aim of improving conservation efforts in Rwanda, and expanding knowledge and building capacity of students by means of research, the National Herbarium of Rwanda (NHR) has been established.
An herbarium is a physical location where collections of specimens, database, and digital imagines are located. Herbaria provide a baseline inventory of plants that can be referred to for various research and conservation purpose. The plant represented in herbaria can be indigenous, exotic or invasive. The species are generally organized by geographic location genetics or other criteria depending on the need.
The National Herbarium of Rwanda was founded during the Belgian colonial period as part of the Institut de Recherche Scientifique en Afrique Centrale (IRSAC) which later became IRST (Institut de Recherche Scientifique et Technologique) and now NIRDA (National Industrial Research and Development Agency). It was officially transferred to the University of Rwanda in August 2018 and launched in December 2018.
Due to a lack of care, the herbarium suffered deterioration and insect damage. During the Genocide in 1994, many herbal species were also damaged. Since then, some reorganization has occurred even though there is still a need for reclassification and upgrades and recently a large effort has been made to repair, upgrade, update and digitize the NHR.
The National Herbarium of Rwanda holds approximately 17,000 specimens dating from 1915s. Specimens have been collected from many different areas in Rwanda (in protected and non-protected areas and in different ecosystems) as well as neighboring countries of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The National Herbarium of Rwanda is now cared for by the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management (CoEB) at University of Rwanda, College of Science and Technology, Huye campus; partnered with The National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) and Institute of National Museums of Rwanda. The CoEB has received grants from IRD/SEP2D to upgrade and digitize the herbarium and make it into a well-used botanical research and educational institution of Rwanda and the region.
Activities of the National Herbarium of Rwanda are: filling gaps of missing or damaged collections of specimen, building a database for online access and scanning specimens according to identification codes. We aim the Herbarium to be a vibrant unit of research of the CoEB and the University of Rwanda.