The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Tourism Revenue Benefits Park Communities

As part of the revenue sharing scheme, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has spent Rwf 1.4 billion on the community projects since 2005 in the 41 sectors bordering the three national parks, according to a top official.

The 5% tourism revenue sharing programme targets communities around the national parks of Volcanoes (north), Nyungwe (west), and Akagera in the eastern part of the country.

Rica Rwigamba, the Head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB, told this to The New Times yesterday on the sidelines of the meeting to assess the programme's progress.

"We have disbursed Rwf 1.4 billion on 220 projects in the 41 sectors of 12 districts surrounding national parks and as the tourism industry continues to generate more revenues, the five per cent will also grow," she said.

Rwigamba added that in 2005 when the sharing scheme had just begun, RDB disbursed Rwf41 million on the community projects, but this year they spent Rwf256 million due to growth of the sector.

The meeting brought together RDB officials, representatives from the districts bordering the three national parks and other stakeholders. It aimed at charting a way forward for the improved welfare of the parks' surrounding communities.

Last year, the country hosted 908,000 tourists from all over the globe and the industry earned $252 million.

She observed that the projects supported by revenue sharing programme include basic infrastructures, agricultural and off farm activities.

"Through this, we can proudly acknowledge that this has decreased illegal activities in the parks, raised awareness of the importance of the parks among the local communities and also increased participation to anti-poaching expeditions," she stated.

According to RDB, 40 per cent of the 5% revenue sharing scheme goes to surrounding communities of the Volcanoes National Park, 30 per cent to Nyungwe, and 30 per cent to areas surrounding Akagera National Park.

John Mugabo, the Mayor of Kayonza district which borders part of Akagera Park, said the welfare of the people surrounding the park has greatly improved since the introduction of the revenue sharing programme.

"This year we received Rwf 46 million and we shall use this money to construct schools in remote areas near the park, cultural centres, roads among others," he said.

Mugabo agitated for the increase of the percentage from 5% to 10 per cent in a bid to boost development in the surrounding areas of the parks.

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