It is that time of the year again when all roads lead to the foot of the magnificent Virunga Mountain range in the Northern Province as conservationists from around the world join Rwandans in celebrating nature in a truly fascinating fashion.
As has been the case every year over the last decade, this year will see yet another group of newly born Mountain Gorillas named.
The eleventh edition of the annual Kwita-Izina ceremony is set for September 5, after the event was moved from mid-year as part of a new inter-state tourism calendar adopted by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, the three East African Northern Corridor Partner States that tourists can now visit as a single tourist destination.
A series of events and activities will precede the ceremony proper to highlight the importance of tourism to human development and economic growth, and the role of communities in national and global conservation efforts.
In the years that followed the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the Government made conservation efforts one of its top priorities, and moved to change the attitude of communities near tourist attractions, including residents in areas that border the Virunga National Park, home to the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas.
One of the strategies used to win the support of the locals in conservation efforts was to invest 5 per cent of tourism revenues back into community development in areas that surround national parks.
The decision to plough back some of the revenues from tourism into community development projects, such as schools and access roads, has since seen communities near parks own conservation efforts, with many poachers turning into park rangers and guides.
Now, officials at the Rwanda Development Board have announced they have come up with Conservation Awards which will go to individuals who demonstrated high levels of commitment to conservation agenda. The Awards will be inaugurated during this year’s Kwita-Izina ceremony, with three individuals being honoured.
This is yet another innovative way to encourage more locals to protect wildlife and support national tourism efforts.
The Awards should be supported by all, notably the private sector.