Tourism benefits reach rural communities in Rwanda

NYUNGWE WOMEN’S COOPERATIVE BENEFITS FROM TOURISM INCOME

(Posted 17th June 2013)

The Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department, led by Ms. Rica Rwigamba, is the country’s custodian body to not just promote the country abroad but also manage the country’s three national parks and tourism attractions and conserve the precious wildlife, foremost of course the prized mountain gorillas. Ms. Rica was in fact saying, ahead of the event: ‘This is a celebration of these wonderful animals but also a way to thank all those who take care of them, starting from rangers, vets and the community living near their habitat’.

A revenue share programme, which benefits communities living near and around national parks, gives back 5 percent of tourism revenues generated, and considering that in recent years Rwanda’s tourism industry grew by double digit figures, the money available for disbursement has increased year after year.

The programme finances, as well as co-finances, water tanks and water pipes to make life for rural folks easier, has supported schools and helped to set up or maintain health centres, largely meeting the requests of local communities vis a vis what they need the most.

On Wednesday 19th of June will a maize mill project be handed over to a women’s cooperative outside the Nyungwe Forest National Park, significant in two ways. First of course it will allow the women to mill maize corn and sell maize flower at a substantial premium, using mechanized equipment which will improve productivity and output. Secondly, area residents in days now thankfully long gone, had regularly raided the forest of a certain tree species, which they then turned into mortars, where the maize was pounded by hand until sufficiently pulverized. ‘When we engage in such projects, it is always aimed at reducing poaching and encroachment in the parks but at the same time we offer the communities there benefits and incentives to respect our natural resources. Revenue sharing is also a way to say thank you to the communities. They now act as our eyes and ears on the ground and any suspicious activity they report quickly. It promotes partnership because they see there is material gain from embracing conservation and tourism’ said a member of RDB’s PR team when passing relevant details on to this correspondent. RDB this year is aiming at a revenue target of about 317 million US Dollars, and as the second quarter of the year wanes, this seems well within reach.

Kwita Izina’ organizers have for 2013 chosen the theme: ‘Celebrating Nature, Empowering Communities’ and this is exactly what project launches and project handovers this week are all about, empowerment, poverty reduction, job creation and to make life for rural communities easier, paid for by tourism income. Way to go Rwanda – see you in Kinigi this coming Saturday where 12 newborn gorilla babies will be named this year. This trip had been made possible courtesy of the Rwanda Development Board, national airline RwandAir (www.rwandair.com) and Serena Hotels, among many other sponsors and contributors to make this year’s Kwita Izina festival another showcase event for the Land of a Thousand Hills. For more information visit www.kwitizina.org or check the country’s main tourism site at www.rwandatourism.com.

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