Different initiatives aimed at promoting development of communities neighbouring Akagera National Park were on Saturday launched in Ndego Sector, Kayonza District.
The projects were launched as part of the revenue sharing programme rolled out by Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to bring citizens living around the park to join the conservation drive of the fauna.
Besides the proceeds from the parks, RDB also works with other partners to set up and implement such initiatives.
The projects launched include a village water pump, street lighting units at Isangano village and three tricycle ambulances which will constitute phase one of a project dubbed Solektra International.
Solektra, which is working with Rwanda Development Board, is a philanthropic project founded by American-Senegalese celebrity Akon and Samba Bathily, a Malian philanthropist.
The first phase of the project will cost US$250,000, according to Samba.
The second phase will include a community irrigation system, solar system for Ndego Primary and Secondary School, and smart village centre. Some parts of the project will also reach Rwinkwavu Sector.
Back in 1996, Ndego, which was part of Akagera National Park, was degazetted and the land was distributed among the locals for farming and habitation but that time, the residents said life was difficult.
Innocent Shingiro, one of the residents, said that in 1997, the area was still literally a park.
“There were hyenas, buffalos, it was a thick forest, there was extreme poverty, and there was no clean water despite the fact that we were surrounded by lakes”.
Things have changed for the better, thanks to efforts by Government and different stakeholders, he said.
“Lakes and Akagera River surrounded us, but we did not have clean water both to drink and subsistence use,” he said.
The new water pump that was launched on Saturday filters water from Lake Kibale and distribute to communities when it is good enough for drinking and domestic use.
Mark Nkurunziza, the Chief Finance Officer of RDB, said through the Government programme of revenue sharing of proceeds from tourism, 610 community projects have been set up worth $4.4 million.
“Under the revenue sharing programme, Government had committed 5 per cent of total revenues from tourism to support projects in communities living near national parks but from last year, it was increased to 10 percent,” he said.
The purpose is to show these communities the benefits of national parks, and to make them love the parks, which will subsequently boost the conservation of the animals in these parks.
“Parks are not just home to animals that at time sneak out to destroy their crops, they are instead the source of development which can bring to citizens different facilities that help transform their lives,” he said.
Samba Bathily, CEO of Solektra International, said that from the onset, their aim is to ensure rural development.
“The project is about development. This development is based on two keys; energy and technology,” he said.
So far, they bring light to more than, 1,600 districts in 18 countries in Africa, and their target is to be in all African countries, he said.
“We will use energy as a base, and then with energy we will solve problems in education, health, water and sanitation, and agriculture,” he said.
He said that the tricycle ambulances will be used by health workers to move across the community checking on the wellbeing of residents, especially the most vulnerable like children and expectant mothers.
“The ambulances will go to the people. It will take 15 minutes per person to have health check-up, and data will be recorded and eventually, we will have a digital health record on the population, with enough data, we will prevent most of those diseases,” he said.
The same technology used in the ambulances is also used in France and USA, revealed Samba.
They are going to train health workers to be able to use the technology, named ‘digital health workers’.
In farming, they will establish irrigation programme, “to showcase what kind of value chain we could bring to help the farmer”.
The whole project will be operating by December, he said.
During the phase 2, they will also build a factory that will help locally avail their technology, in a project that will cost $2.53 million.
Ndego is one of sectors not yet connected to electricity, but Kayonza District Mayor Jean-Claude Murenzi said the plan is to get them connected to national grid before the end of this year.
Germaine Kamayirese, Minister of State in charge of Energy, Water and Sanitation, reminded those present that the Government plan is that by 2024, all villages in the country will have been connected to clean water and electricity.
“This is an existing government programme of bringing more infrastructure to citizens, it is being carried out here in Ndego and all over the country,” she explained.