By Joseph Oindo
In a bid to ramp up Tourism, conservation and sustainable development activities around the Volcano National Parks, Red Rocks Cultural Center has initiated a program code named Engaging Local Community in Environmental Conservation, Tourism and Sustainable Development Programs Around the Volcano National Park that will see the local community and tourists engage in public debates geared towards promoting community tourism and conservation efforts around the area.
The program further aims to raise awareness about the importance of the Volcano National Park to the population.
Greg Bakunzi, the founder of Red Rocks Cultural Center in Musanze, said the program will involve gorilla trackers and forest guides who will share valuable information with tourists about their experience with the gorillas and chart practical ways through which these species may be protected for posterity.
“Gorilla Trackers and forest guides have a wealth of knowledge concerning the primates and activities around the Volcano National Parks. They’re significant resources when conservation efforts have to be carried around the park,” Bakunzi told the Rwanda Inspirer.
Bakunzi says the talks and debates will have multiple management applications which include introduction to research and community development initiatives.
Since its establishment five years ago, Red Rocks Cultural Center, based in Nyakinama village in Musanze, has established a solid reputation in championing for intercultural tourism, conservation and community development efforts that have had a major impact on the local community around the Volcano National Park.
Bakunzi, who was among the 19 baby gorilla namers during this year’s Kwita Izina ceremony held in Kinigi, added that it is their wish to work on these valuable initiatives and programs that will have positive impact on the local community, and help them to eventually uplift their living standards.
“We are partnering with different stakeholders and well-wishers towards the protection of mountain gorilla; to disseminate and share valuable information and data,” he adds.
Bakunzi says they have established innovative joint-venture partnership efforts with tourism investors and management companies interested in direct economic and social transformation of the local community. Consequently, he adds, “the locals will benefit directly from tourism and have the stimulus to protect mountain gorillas’ natural habitat.”
Furthermore, according to Bakunzi, who is also the managing director of Amahoro Tours, the programs they have initiated are meant to make the locals live in harmony with the wildlife, and prevent perennial human-wildlife conflict that have been the bane of sustainable tourism and conservation efforts in the area.
Besides providing employment opportunities, the revenue earned through such responsible tourism efforts around Volcano National Park is directed to community fund which supports local social and economic ventures like education, healthcare and access to clean water among myriad of others, says the tour operator.
Red Rocks also launched a tree planting program where so far, more than 300 local families have planted thousands of trees that have reclaimed large swathe of degraded land, leading to enrichment of land suitable for agricultural production.
The program is currently training 20 families in Nyakinama sector on environmental conservation and has overseen planting of over 200,000 trees.