“While the initiative was led by SACOLA, we are proud to have provided the revenue for the construction of the homes and new equipment, valued at around USD227,000.00, to deserving families in the community”, noted Leonard Harerimana, SACOLA & Wilderness Sabyinyo Communications Officer. “The beneficiaries of the new homes were selected from families of widows of the 1994 genocide, and other disadvantaged community members”.
Wilderness Sabyinyo is Rwanda’s first community-owned lodge, operated by Wilderness but owned by the SACOLA community trust, in partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation and the International Gorilla Conservation Programme.
SACOLA was established to receive rental and other income from Sabyinyo, such as lease fees paid by the lodge and a community development levy paid by every guest. In turn, the income is used to facilitate community development and conservation initiatives in the Kinigi area, adjacent to Volcanoes National Park in north-western Rwanda. This unique revenue-sharing model ensures the community directly benefits from conservation tourism.
The new homes were handed over during a ceremony in the Nyange and Kinigi sectors, and was attended by a number of dignities, as well as Ingrid Bass, Wilderness Rwanda Operations Manager, SACOLA executive committee members, journalists and the excited beneficiaries.
Each family received a house with furniture, mattresses, food supplies, and a financial contribution to welcome and establish them in their new home. As Aloys Kavuza, a 68-year-old man who moved into one of the new homes with his three children, said: “We do not have enough words to express our joy and excitement. Some of us have lived a long time with no shelter. Being given a house is like a miracle. We will always support and praise SACOLA, the park, the gorillas, and the tourism investors. We now understand the benefit of Volcanoes National Park, and although we used to poach the wildlife for meat, we are now ambassadors for the protection of the surrounding wilderness”.
SACOLA Chairman, Celestin Pierre Nsengiyumva, recognised the importance of community empowerment in his speech. “All this is possible because of tourism and it is important for the community to help protect the park, the gorillas and other wildlife. Thank you to our new partner Wilderness for their co-operation and support”.