Joining efforts to protect and promote environment will go a long way in ensuring a successful conservation story and will eventually make the continent more attractive to tourists, Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi has said.
Murekezi made the remarks, yesterday, while officiating at the opening ceremony of a two-day second Kwita Izina Conversation on Conservation 2016.
The event, taking place at Kigali exhibition and convention village, is organised under the theme, “United in driving economic growth through conservation.”
The gathering is an African conservation and tourism forum hosted by Rwanda, and is seen as a unique platform linking conservation with tourism, embracing all layers of the value chain, from community to governments, private sector to NGOs, scientists and philanthropists.
“A better conservation of our environment requires collective efforts of all countries, non-government organisations and public and private partnership,” Murekezi said.
The premier said Africa’s diverse wildlife with its cultural and natural resources is a ‘golden opportunity’ to boost African economies, hence requiring combined conservation efforts if the continent is to strongly benefit from it.
“We must continue to join efforts to protect and promote our environment. It will make our continent more attractive to tourists. Once we don't protect our nature, we immediately face consequences like flooding, droughts and depletion of bio-diversity,” said Murekezi.
Conservation serves to maintain the health of the natural world, its habitats, and biological diversity, Murekezi said, adding that, “failing to do conservation is to put human life and that of all living species and other existing things at high risk.”
The Conversation on Conservation is part of a series of events in line with the upcoming baby gorilla naming ceremony (Kwita Izina), a national flagship tourism event aimed at positioning Rwanda as the lighthouse example for conservation in Africa.
Murekezi said the country had done “much” to ensure protection and law enforcement on protected areas.
“In Rwanda, much was done, in terms of human resource and capacity to ensure protection and law enforcement on protected areas. We believe that every decision we take, when it affects biodiversity, also affects our lives and the lives of other people,” he said.
Reaping from conservation
Rwanda has established Environment Conservation and Green Economy Fund and Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity and Nature Conservation, in addition to developing tools like Vision 2020, the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy, which all take into account vital steps to recognise the importance of the environment and climate-change.
“Our focus is on developing eco-friendly policies and strategies in all sectors of the economy and on promotion of green growth,” Murekezi added.
Francis Gatare, chief executive of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said Rwanda’s conservation efforts have led to increase in mountain gorilla population in the last 12 years.
Figures from RDB show that of about 800 Mountain gorillas in Virunga Trans boundary, 440 are in Rwanda.
Gatare said the conservation forum is important in “multiplying conservation” efforts not only in Rwanda but globally.
Dr José Kalpers, a global expert in biodiversity conservation from Australia, said successful conservation requires creating public awareness and involving the public in conservation and protection.
“The public needs to be involved in conserving as well as enjoying the benefits of conservation. I think revenue sharing is one concept that the rest of the world must learn from Rwanda,” Kaplers said.
According to Belise Kariza, chief tourism officer at RDB, Rwanda’s conservation success story has been made possible through the revenue sharing scheme that impacts the welfare of communities surrounding national parks.
Through the scheme—a conservation strategy that started in 2005—RDB reinvests 5 per cent of all tourism revenues into the communities surrounding parks.
Kariza said more than Rwf2.6 billion has been invested in about 500 projects in the entire country under the tourism sharing scheme.
Of the projects, 122, including schools, roads, health centres, business start-ups for former poachers, among others are for communities surrounding Volcanoes National Park and cost about Rwf1 billion.
“Through this mechanism, we support projects that benefit development and welfare of communities living around national parks and involve them in conservation activities, including park rangers and guides of the parks. This makes conservation easier for us,” Kariza said.