(eTN) – The Rwanda Development Board’s (RDB) Tourism and Conservation Department, led by Ms. Rica Rwigamba, is the country’s custodian body to not just promote the country abroad but also to 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 program, 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 program 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 centers, largely meeting the requests of local communities vis-a-vis what they need the most.
On Wednesday, June 19, a maize mill project will 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 US$317 million, and as the second quarter of the year wanes, this seems well within reach.