15 park guards and trackers from Rwanda and Burundi have received diplomas from the Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management (KCCEM), after having completed a two-year course. Their studies were sponsored by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) for which they worked.
According to Marie-Christine Gasingirwa, the vice-chairwoman of the advisory committee of KCCEM, the promotion of conservation and tourism through higher education is key to tourism development.
The 15 graduates are from 5 regional parks including Virunga, Akagera and Nyungwe National parks in Rwanda and Burundi's Kibira National park, as well another park located in the southern part of Burundi. "Each Rwandan park has 4 individuals among the graduates, 2 from Kibira National park and 1 from the southern Park of Burundi," said Richard Nasasira, KCCEM's principal, adding that the courses mainly related to wildlife issues. "It was a capacity building course in issues of wildlife and parks management."
"We have learnt a lot on biodiversity conservation," said Daniel Niyonsaba, one of the graduates, who also explained that during the course, they have identified challenges to Rwanda and Burundi's biodiversity, such as fragmentation of some protected areas, invasive alien species as well as bush fires. "We are committed to go fight all those issues in order to help attract more tourists and nature lovers and generating more income for our countries. We used to work in as guides or trackers in parks for money. We had no sense of environment protection and conservation, which is what this two-year course has instilled in us."
Rica Rwigamba, the head of tourism at RDB, explained that KCCEM attracts parks stakeholders for the Alberta rift region, and promotes initiatives of the transboundary collaboration in tourism. "The fact that we have trained park employees from both Burundi and Rwanda together shows that we are trying to build a strong partnership between the two states and to make parks collaborate in issues of protection and animal reintegration."
The Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management (KCCEM) is located on the outskirts of Nyungwe National Park, 54 km from Huye district. It is an academic institution, operating under the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), with the mandate to develop capacity in Conservation and Environmental Management in Rwanda and the wider Albertine Rift Region.