The African Wildlife Foundation has donated 27.8 hectares of land to Rwanda Development Board (BRD) to add to National Volcanoes Park home to mountain gorilla.
The property adds to the 16,000 hectares of the national park.
Home of the critically endangered Mountain Gorilla, the Volcanoes National Park has decreased by 54% since its establishment in 1925.
Due to conservation efforts by the government, as well as its conservation partners, mountain gorilla numbers are recovering.
The population has increased from a low of 285 in 1978 to 480 in 2010. Between 2003 and 2010, gorilla numbers increased by 26.3%; representing an annual growth rate of 3.7%.
However, the increase in the mountain gorilla population has led to a major challenge, adequate habitat.
From 2010 to 2016, according to Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of RDB, gorilla families have increased from seven to 20 families adding, “while the number of gorilla has grown, its habitat space has remained the same.”
Kaddu Sebunya, the President of the African Wildlife Foundation said that most of Africa is witnessing the growth that would cause the catastrophic damages to the biodiversity if nothing is done.”
But, he added that, “Rwanda has been on the forefront to conserve biodiversity particularly gorillas through the annual gorilla naming ceremony held annually in Rwanda and also highlighted the fact that in 2016, Rwanda made the Gishwati Forest the fourth national park [after Akagera, Volcanoes and Nyungwe Forest national parks].
“I am excited by the great strides Rwanda is taking to develop its natural heritage sustainably and guarantee long-term socio-economic stability for its people,” he said.
“Through proactive government policies, community involvement and open governance, Rwanda is demonstrating that development and conservation are not mutually exclusive. Such a win-win approach to conservation suggests that there is nothing inevitable about conservation challenges in Africa today,” Kaddu said.
He also emphasized that what Rwanda has done, “Africa can do it too”.
Apparently AWF purchased the land from Serena Hotels in 2017 after Serena called off a project to develop a hotel on it due to. Serena, after purchasing the land, concluded that it was not ideal due to the proximity with the biodiversity.
Benefiting the community
The Minister for Trade and Industry, Vincent Munyeshyaka who was the guest of hour at the event, said that 13 years ago, Rwanda resolved to share revenue by 5% from tourism to the community around national parks and it was increased to 10% in 2017.
At the moment, 731 community-based projects provide housing, schools, health clinics, and water tanks for the communities living in the twelve sectors and four districts surrounding Volcanoes National Park.
Last year, over Frw531million was distributed by RDB to more than 158 community-based projects through the revenue sharing program.
As said in the poem by students from Nyabisinde Primary School, built through the tourism share revenue, “diarrhea was gotten rid of due to clean water provided to the population from gorillas tourism.”
“Kerosene lamps that caused respiratory diseases is no longer in use as we have electricity,” the student narrated,” adding, “we no longer use traditional herbs to cure diseases because we have health centers.”
Since 2006, over 298,000 tourists have visited the Volcanoes National Park. An average number of 29,000 tourists have visited the Park between 2011-2016.
Rwanda earned over $800 million from tourism in the past two years. Visiting the national volcanoes park alone generated $16 million from 36,000 tourists who visited gorillas and $115million from 2007 to 2016.
Quoting the World Economic Forum, Clare Akamanzi said Rwanda is the 9th safest country for a tourist to travel.