Up to 729 cows have been given to communities around the Volcanoes National Park in the districts of Burera, Nyabihu, Musanze and Rubavu, as part of Rwanda Development Board's (RDB) tourism revenue sharing programme.
This was announced on Friday as part of the official ceremony to hand over the cows to the vulnerable families, a function that took place in Bigogwe sector, Nyabihu district.
In this district, 226 families received cattle, representing 31 per cent of the total cows donated to the citizens surrounding the park, bought from tourism proceeds.
At least half of the cows donated to Nyabihu families went particularly to Bigogwe sector where the function took place.
According to RDB, the activity is part of 37 projects sponsored by the government, as part of the efforts to distribute revenues generated from tourism activities with people surrounding the parks.
Bélise Kariza, RDB's Chief Tourism Officer, applauded the residents for having accepted to collaborate with government to support efforts aimed at conservation of parks and other tourism activities.
"I appreciate the fact that today a person that used to set traps for animals in the parks is now able to get milk on a daily basis. Let's continue protecting the parks so that this area can continue earning more from tourism which will improve people's lives," she said
Kariza told the residents of Nyabihu that government adopted the revenue sharing scheme to support the development and well-being of communities around the park and show them that there was more to just being parks.
"Parks are not just habitats for wild animals that only destroy people's properties, but parks are a source of economic development that can turn around the lives of people and take them from one place to better one," she said.
As part of the projects initiated as a result of revenues generated from parks, Kariza highlighted more than 250 classrooms that have been built, 80 water harvesting facilities, 120 houses built for vulnerable families, four modern markets, and six milk diaries.
"These are projects we strongly believe have had significant impact on the well-being of our people," she noted, adding that the cattle given to the communities were part of the many activities the Government has been doing.
The revenue share programme, initiated in 2005 by the Government, aims to guide investment in the areas surrounding the various national parks in Rwanda by ensuring that 10 per cent of all park revenues are given back to the communities.
Over Rwf5.2 billion has been distributed by RDB to 647 community-based projects since 2005.
The projects have availed clean drinking water, milk, health centres, classrooms and housing to members of the communities living around the three national parks; Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park and Volcanoes National Park.
Félicien Senyiki, a 58-year old resident of Basumba village in Bigogwe sector, and one of this year's beneficiaries of the 729 cattle, said that the cows given to them will boost to their welfare.
"I personally had no cow and buying milk cost me a lot of money. That is the same story for my neighbours and many other people around here. With this cow, we won't have to buy milk from outside," he said.
Currently, there are more than 50,000 people living around the Volcanoes National Park in the four districts, and Paul Jabo, the Executive Secretary of Northern Province, indicated that they were working to make sure that they understand the value of park conservation.
"What we see is that already many people have started understanding the value of parks. We have more people now involved in handicraft activities, some have become potters, others have formed traditional dance troupes and other income generating activities," he noted.
The launch of community projects is part of the events that have been organised ahead of the gorilla naming ceremony commonly known as Kwita Izina, which will be celebrated on September 6 in Musanze District.