Rwanda Development Board (RDB) revealed the Kwita Izina activity roadmap for 2019 at a press conference held at the Kigali Convention and Exhibition Village today. Held under the ‘Conservation is Life’ theme, this year’s naming ceremony will take place in Kinigi at the foothill of Volcanoes National Park, Northern Province on 6th September 2019.
Kwita Izina, a uniquely Rwandan event, was introduced in 2005 with the aim of creating awareness of conservation efforts for the endangered mountain gorillas. 25 infant mountain gorillas will be named this year.
As part of this year’s Kwita Izina ceremony, Rwanda will host the first ever Business of Conservation Conference (BCC) from 8-9 September. The BCC, organized in partnership with the African Leadership University (ALU), will bring together global conservation leaders, providing a unique platform linking conservation with sustainable tourism by embracing all layers of the value chain. Furthermore, a conservation exhibition focused on conservation trends and practices will take place on 7, September. The exhibition is open to the general public
On 23, August, RDB will donate 729 cows to communities surrounding the Volcanoes National Park in Burera, Nyabihu, Musanze and Rubavu districts as part of the RDB Tourism Revenue Share Programme. This program, initiated in 2005 by the Government of Rwanda, aims to guide investment in the areas surrounding the various national parks in Rwanda by ensuring that 10 per cent of all park revenues is given back to the communities.
Over Rwf 5.2 billion has been distributed by RDB to 647 community-based projects since 2005.
These projects have availed clean drinking water, milk, health centers, classrooms and housing to members of the communities living around the three national parks; Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park and Volcanoes National Park.
Speaking to the gathered media, the RDB Chief Tourism Officer, Belise Kariza, said;
“The increasing number of mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park is proof of the strides that we have made in gorilla conservation. This could have not happened without the support and collaboration of our conservation partners as well as the cooperation of the members of the community surrounding the park.
Initiatives such as the Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony play a major role in conserving
gorillas. Thanks to the conservation efforts, we have been able to improve the gorilla trekking experience for our visitors and also increase the amount of support we have given to the local communities through the revenue sharing program.
Rwanda’s tourism strategy has always focused on two important areas, sustainability through responsible tourism and conservation and community involvement. It has always been about protecting our natural heritage, providing world class experiences that highlight the diverse natural beauty of Rwanda while ensuring that Rwandans benefit from this tourism and conservation. No one has been left behind,” Kaliza explained.
Speaking on this year’s Business of Conservation Conference, Fred Swaniker, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ALU said:
“I am excited about promoting Rwanda as a destination for events, conferences, and meetings. Kwita Izina is the perfect platform for the Business of Conservation Conference. Our goal is to use this forum to promote economic development by bringing together influential leaders in sessions that foster collaboration and deal making. This year we are asking, “What does it take to make conservation a ‘growth industry in Africa?” We know part of the answer is leadership. That is why Rwanda is a perfect partner for BCC.”
As a result of conservation efforts such as Kwita Izina, the population of the endangered mountain gorilla increased to 604 in 2016 in the Virunga Massif compared to 480 in 2010. The Virunga Massif is comprised of Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Mountain gorilla numbers in the entire region had fallen as low as 242 in 1981.