As the global population soars toward nine billion by 2045, this corner of Africa shows what’s at stake in the decades ahead. The Rift is rich in rainfall, deep lakes, volcanic soil, and biodiversity. It is also one of the most densely populated places on Earth. A desperate competition for land and resources—and between people and wildlife—has erupted here with unspeakable violence. How can the conflict be stopped? Will there be any room left for the wild? […]
[Top] From above, the scene is pastoral—a lush blanket of fields in the highlands of northwest Rwanda. The ground truth is grittier. Land is so scarce in the crowded countryside near Musanze that farmers struggle to cultivate every foot of the steep, eroding hillsides. Land pressures set the stage for the 1994 genocide, in which one million were killed.
[Bottom] In a region bursting with people, a few big open spaces remain—like the Rift floor in Queen Elizabeth Park, pocked with crater lakes formed by volcanic explosions. If protected areas hadn’t been set aside in the Albertine Rift from the 1920s to the 1960s, conservationists doubt any large wilderness areas would exist today.