Community-Based Tourism is those small projects that are put in place in the villages around the national park or within the park to benefit the local people. Nyungwe National Park is located in Southwest of the country. And it is located in Albertine Rift, in the South East of the Lake Kivu. Nyungwe National Park touches to 5 districts out of the 30 districts of Rwanda.
This means that Nyungwe is surrounded by a big number of local people and that’s why the government of Rwanda has collaborated with WCS (Wildlife conservation society) in engaging local people in the conservation of the park. The only way was possible they would make that happen is to prove to local people around the park that conserving the park would be a benefit directly and indirectly to them. In that case government of Rwanda started to develop some projects for local people who live around Nyungwe Forest national park so that they can find themselves in tourism and conservation activities around the park through small projects that were initiated to increase their income and those projects were based on improving what local people have been doing illegally and make it legal also in way of conservation. For example, beekeeping cooperatives, cultural village, and trails making.
WCS has done whatever they could to promote and engage local people who live around Nyungwe national park, in the sustainable way of conservation. Before WCS took action in collaboration with the Rwandan government, people used to do harvesting honey in the park using traditional methods of blowing fire, which were the cause of some forest fires the park. Thus WCS with Government of Rwanda saw there is nothing to do that would stop that illegal activity in the Park unless they develop and establish a new way of harvesting honey but outside of the park. Thus this became the sustainable solution. Now beekeeping cooperatives at Kitabi near the park headquarter are running well and there is a honey shop around the park entry (Huye-Rusizi road). So many things were done to give local people capacity such as training, giving them equipment, and educating them on both sides better beekeeping ways and fire prevention in the park. WCS and its partners entered in getting local markets for the cooperative. Although we focused on cooperatives of Kitabi; it was an example because there are 13 beekeeping cooperatives around Nyungwe Forest in the name of UBWIZA BWA Nyungwe Beekeeping Union.
But Kitabi is the sales center of all beekeeping members & the sales center infrastructures were built and handed over to the cooperative. Finally through the training due to WSC in collaboration with Government of Rwanda, the new skills given to cooperatives members have worked, now one of the 13 cooperative Ubuzima honey members are now producing other products beyond honey like beeswax candles.
Community-based tourism did not end on beekeeping only; also cultural villages were established as part of community-based tourism.
Friend of Nyungwe: is also a community cooperative that was formed by the local people who used to poach and rely on forest meat. They also chopped down trees for timber and as a result, of the government policy of engaging them.
Kitabi Eco-center former Kitabi Cultural Village: is also established in the same way by a local community around Nyungwe forest as part of the projects for community-based tourism. This cultural village was established in the hope of occupying local people’s daily activities and make money from it instead of being occupied and relying on the park’s resources. All those were in search of solution leading to sustainable conservation, so community got what to do and earn some money, some become a traditional dancer; men and females. The cultural village offers traditional entertainment this was to make an improvement in it, thus now it changed the name to Kitabi Eco-center. They rebuilt it with added rooms, yoga field for the tourists staying there nevertheless tourist’s community activities. The Kitabi Eco-center is set on a beautiful peak mountain that gives fresh breath amazing view of Nyungwe mountains from the top, and a view of Kitabi tea estate. Communities are benefiting more than before & the eco-center is making the name all over the world, as it is the advisable place for safaris and cheap accommodation for budget travelers.
Banda village: There is also another Cultural village called Banda which is located within Nyungwe national park, very few kilometers from the Uwinka reception center in the direction towards Kitabi road.
These people live inside the park and a believed to be native to that place. It’s a quite interesting walk from Uwinka reception center in the park main road to the Banda Cultural village. The cultural village offers traditional wedding experiences, local food, local cuisine experience, community walk, and local beer the one from this place is a little bit unusual.
After all, the work of engaging local people in park conservation has been successful because now there are no illegal activities done in and outside the park.
Government of Rwanda provide 10% of income from the park to local people to support the small projects that they benefit from.