Conservation awareness and tourism activities in Musanze District have led to a significant development in the area, including infrastructure, hotels and education of the local population.
Speaking to The New Times, the district mayor, Winifrida Mpembyemungu revealed that tourism has exposed the district and the people to the world by linking local initiatives to the international community.
“The number of hotels increased from six in 2005 to 15 in 2009, and majority of the visitors are international tourists, we have eight registered cooperatives with over 400 members involved in making arts and crafts,” she said.
She added that key development projects linked to the tracking of Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, especially roads like the now tarmacked Muhoza-Kinigi road, has led to agricultural development, expansion of the trading centres and electricity rollout.
Farmers said that the prices for food crops, especially Irish potatoes, increased when the feeder roads around the park were constructed.
The Park management has helped, the porters’ club with 207 members and ANICO (Conservation Mobilisers), with 24 people two from each of 12 sectors bordering the park.
These mobilisers are now involved in activities aimed at protecting the park.
According to Prosper Uwingeri, the chief warden of Virunga National Park, the government initiated a programme of revenue sharing scheme where some of the proceeds from tourism are committed to development of communities around the park.
He said that since the introduction of the revenue sharing scheme, 12 schools have been constructed with 56 classrooms, , 32 water tanks installed and at least 3,000 households are members of the community association and benefit, through various projects