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Regional Scale: Rwanda and Neighbors
This GIS set gives information about various aspects of the region around the nation of Rwanda. As with the previous stack, all of the maps in this set are exactly the same size and coregistered with each other.

The maps may be viewed individually using your net browser by simply clicking on the thumbnail of the map. Or you may download all or any combination of the maps by clicking on "download TIFF." Stack and/or overlay them using NIH Image or similar program. Once again, the last map in this set is the base map for this area that you can use to create your own additional map layers for this set.

Image of a map that shows the national boundaries and principal towns in Rwanda and the surrounding countries. This image links to a more detailed image.Political Map (download TIFF) This map shows national boundaries and principal towns in Rwanda and the surrounding countries. Although numerous "cities" are shown, most of them are really only small towns of a few thousand people. Only the national capitals, Kigali (Rwanda) and Bujumbura (Burundi), have populations in excess of 100,000, equivalent to a small U.S. city. Thus the urban population in this region is relatively small, only about 5%. The other 95% live on single family farms or a small number of larger cooperative farms. This ratio of urban to rural population is just about the opposite of what it is in the U.S., where nearly everyone lives in cities. The black spots marking the locations of the towns in this map are retained in every map in this set to help you locate different features. However, town names are left off the other maps for clarity.

This set closes in on the Virunga Mountains, which are located between Lake Kivu and the junction of the national boundaries of Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda. The Virungas show up well in the topographic map in this set, so as you look at the information in each of the other maps in the set, keep your eye on the information shown for that area to see how it relates to the regional setting.

Image of a map that shows the elevation data for the Rwanda region.  This image links to a more detailed image.Topography (download TIFF) This map shows the elevation data for the Rwanda region. The Virunga Mountains, the highest in this region, show up as white dots at upper left. Mount Karisimbi, the highest point, is 4,535 m (14,870 ft) high, slightly higher than Mount Whitney, the highest point in the "Lower 48" United States. The Virungas are actually a chain of volcanoes along the top of a prominent north-south ridge known as the Congo-Nile crest: rivers on the west of the crest flow into the Congo basin (notice the steep drop-off on the west edge of the map), while rivers on the east eventually turn northward and flow into the Nile of Egypt. The Congo-Nile crest forms the east wall of the west branch of the Great African Rift, a deep valley cutting through the highlands of Africa that may someday widen into a new ocean. Lakes Kivu and Tanganyika lie on the floor of the Rift Valley. Most of Central Rwanda is on a high plateau at an elevation of 1,220 - 1,830 m (4000 - 6000 ft), while the eastern section of the country slopes downward to a group of river valleys at elevations of 915 -1,220 m (3000 - 4000 ft).

Image of a map that shows the annual precipitation in inches. This image links to a more detailed image.Rainfall (download TIFF) This map shows the annual precipitation in inches. Rainfall over the western and central portions of the region is 40 - 60 in., comparable to that in the eastern United States. This amount is sufficient to support agriculture without irrigation, as well as rich forests and jungles. The zone of highest rainfall is along the high sections of the Congo-Nile crest. To the east, however, rainfall decreases so sharply that the land becomes semidesert. Rain comes during two wet seasons each year: February to April and November to January. Even though this region is located just south of the Equator, the elevation of the Virunga Mountains is high enough that some of the precipitation falls as snow and hail.

Image of a map that shows land use in the region.  This image links to a more detailed image.Crops (download TIFF) This map shows land use in the region. Except for the areas marked as dense forest, nearly all of the land is used for subsistence agriculture and grazing. The areas marked for different cash crops show where these crops are actually grown. Cash crops, however, never constitute more than a few percent of all of the crops grown in a given area. Some 97% of all crops in this region are food crops, such as bananas, beans, and potatoes used for local consumption. Still, cash crops, are very important to the area's economy, supplying well over half of the export income. The most important cash crop is coffee, followed by tea and pyrethrum, a natural insecticide.

Almost three fourths of the land in this region is arable (capable of supporting agriculture), about one fourth is unusable, and the remainder is used for urban areas and mining. Because of the high population density, virtually all of the nonforest arable land in the region was being farmed by the mid-1980s. This agricultural land is about evenly split between cultivation and pasturage. Except for the lowland jungle in the Congo basin in the west, nearly all of the forest areas left in the region (about 10% of the total) are in protected national parks. Much of the remaining forest is arable, however, so there is pressure from the still rapidly growing population to convert the remaining forests to planted fields.

Much of the unusable land is located between Kigali and the lakes on the Rwanda-Tanzania border. Centuries ago, this land was used for pasture, but it was damaged by overgrazing and brush fires. In addition, the lakes are surrounded by swamps in which Tse Tse flies and mosquitoes breed: the former spread sleeping sickness to humans and nagana to cattle, while the latter spread malaria to humans. Consequently, these lands are now largely unused.

Image of a map that shows the political boundaries, rivers, lakes, and towns at the same scale as the other maps in this set. This image links to a more detailed image.Rwanda Region Base Map (download TIFF) This map shows the political boundaries, rivers, lakes, and towns at the same scale as the other maps in this set. Use this map to add your own data leaves to the GIS.

[ Geographic & Remote Sensing Information ]
[ Continental Scale: East Africa ] [ Regional Scale: Rwanda & Neighbors ]
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Local Scale: The Virguna Mountains ] [ Remote Sensing/GIS Activities ]

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