Local communities around the Volcanoes National Park and the Government will both benefit significantly from the ongoing project to expand the gorilla habitat, according to officials from Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
RDB is in advanced stages of developing and expanding the gorilla habitat to cater for the growing number of mountain gorillas and boost tourism receipts.
However, the residents from the environs of the Volcano National Park in Northern Province, are seeking clarity about their fate when the $200 million project is implemented.
“Information reaching us says that we could be relocated to Eastern Province where we can’t afford to live as we are familiar with the Musanze weather, we are afraid of what should follow if that project is implemented,” Paul Gasirabwe, one of the residents around the park, said.
However speaking to The New Times, Eugène Mutangana, the Head of Conservation at RDB, allayed fears expressed by the residents, saying that people around the park will not be relocated to another province.
“We are not going to relocate people elsewhere; they are going to remain in the same area. We are looking at how to have co-existence of conservation and community in a better status,” he explained.
“This is a win-win project that aims to improve (the) livelihood of the local communities because conservation in Rwanda puts people’s needs at the forefront.”
The implementation of the seven to 10 year-long project will affect some 18,000 individuals who are grouped together in 3,000 households.
RDB said it plans to construct a model village for the households in question around the park, and construct kindergarten and TVET schools there and accord them employment opportunities in addition to putting up other infrastructure projects.
According to Mutangana, they intend to boost agriculture production, encourage setting up of small factories that would consider using bamboo as a raw material.
Jean-Marie Vianney Gatabazi, the Governor of Northern Province, called on the residents to concentrate on their day-to-day activities rather than relying on speculation about the expansion of gorilla habitat.