Ngirente made the remarks today as he officially opened the 2019 Business of Conservation Conference held at Kigali Convention Centre. The conference is part of the week-long Kwita Izina 2019 activities.
It brought together leaders from conservation as well as the intersecting industries, to promote best practices, strengthen networks and partnerships, and collectively tackle the challenges of saving Africa’s wildlife and its habitat.
While addressing participants, Premier Ngirente said that Rwanda earmarked much effort in the conservation of natural ecosystems.
“Rwanda is not new to conservation and the protection of natural heritage. We recognized the critical need for conservation-based tourism and economic development through the protection of our natural ecosystems,” he said.
As part of conservation efforts, Rwanda We have become a World leader in conservation has more than 8.9% of its land base protected as national parks.
A few of Rwanda’s conservation achievements include the mountain gorilla conservation in the Virunga Massif as a result of government, communities and conservation partners working together.
The 2016 census revealed a 59% increase in participation from 2003.
This saw the number rising from 240 to 604.
Over the past four years, African Lions were successfully reintroduced to Rwanda in 2015 after being hunted to extinction in 1990s.
An additional 2 male lions were translocated in 2017 to add to genetic diversity of a population that is now thriving and continues to grow.
Eastern Black Rhino were successfully reintroduced to Akagera in 2017, 10 years after the last rhino was seen in 2007.
Today, Akagera National Park is home to big five animals including Lions, Elephants, Leopards, Rhinos and Buffalo.
Premier Ngirente explained that Rwanda took heed on giving back to communities along the conservation journey.
“These strategies have resulted in significant results in Rwanda and for Rwandans over the past 15 years, visits to our national parks increased by 600% since 2003 and a 250% growth in revenues from these same visitors. This solid foundation of conservation, with an aggressive but pro-conservation Tourism Strategy has resulted in significant positive social-economic growth and development benefits for our citizens,” he said.
Under the program known as Revenue Sharing Scheme, Rwanda has invested more than US $5.8 million since 2005 into more than 647 projects in communities surrounding the national parks.
This Revenue Sharing Program, started with 5% and then increased in 2017 to 10% of all tourism revenues invested in communities adjacent to national parks providing economic development capacity and making the lives better for Rwandans.
n 2018/19 alone, the Program supported investments worth US$1.7 million in 37 projects, an increase of 51% over 2017/18.
Ngirente highlighted that this investment has served as a catalyst for many conservation and community partners.
A conservative estimate of community benefits project investments since 2005 increases to 13 million dollars, the result of this investment is clear to see-for both people and nature. We also have an important but little known Special Guarantee Fund in which an additional 5% of all tourism revenues have been used to support management and compensation resulting from human wildlife conflicts in these same communities surrounding our national parks,” he said.
According to Premier Ngirente, Rwanda’s experience is that collaboration and effective partnerships are the key to how the country has been able to achieve the significant results and benefits of conservation, sustainable tourism and economic benefits in Rwanda, for Rwandans.
He said these are the means by which Rwanda has achieved conservation results, provide exceptional tourism experiences for visitors at home and from around the World, and improving the lives of Rwandans as well as means by which ‘we will achieve additional results in the future’.
The Premier further called for efforts in the management and preservation of the ecosystem for the sake of sustainable economies and Africans in general.
“Allow me to add my voice to calls for action that ensure the protection and management of our natural legacy in Africa, but also make use of it in a sustainable way to help drive economies and the benefits for the people of Africa,” he said.
Hailemariam Desalegn, former Ethiopian Prime Minister stressed the need to advance measures towards improved environmental protection and called for youth’s efforts to take advantage of available opportunities.
The conference was organized in collaboration with Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and African Leadership University (ALU) through its School of Wildlife Conservation (SOWC).