Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is home to over 500 gorillas that are changing the face of Rwanda’s communities. A tourism revenue-sharing scheme allows five percent of the annual income in the national park to be distributed among local areas.

Mountain gorillas in Rwanda are an endangered species that can only be found along the borders between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They attracted more than 1 million tourists between the years of 2006 and 2013 and generated $75 million in revenue for the national park system.

With this large amount of money coming in, the Rwandan government created a system where five percent of the national park’s income would be divided among surrounding communities.

According to the Rwanda Development Board, more than 39,000 people have benefited from this program.

Since the program’s conception in 2005, $1.83 million has been distributed to fund 360 community projects across the country. These projects have included things like roadwork, building bridges, bee keeping, water and sanitation projects, handiworks and small and medium enterprises.

Many of these initiatives have had a focus on sustainability. Conservation of nature is a priority for Rwanda, as it has such a positive impact on the country as a whole.

In addition to community projects, the money has been used for various public works. The Rwandan government built 57 primary schools throughout 13 districts, reaching about 13,700 students in the past 10 years. Twelve health centers have been built in areas where health care was previously difficult to acquire.

There is a lengthy process to determine which projects will receive funding from the tourism revenue program.

The Rwanda Development Board analyzes each community to ensure funds are allocated to the appropriate initiatives.

“We sit down with community leaders and decide how to distribute the money according to the priorities in the area, to address the issues that prevail in the area,” said Telesphore Ngoga, the conservation division manager at The Rwanda Development Board.

The tourism revenue-sharing scheme has allowed communities to thrive in a way that would not be possible otherwise.

“Local residents are the primary beneficiaries as it has helped set up community businesses and income generating projects that has improved lives and the communities’ economy,” said Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: The Guardian, Rwanda Eye
Photo: The Guardian