A ground breaking ceremony has taken place today to kick start the construction of the multi-million dollar Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. The ceremony took place in Kinigi, Musanze District.
According to Rwanda Development Board (RDB) officials, the construction of a new science and education campus on a parcel of five hectares in Kinigi Sector aims to support the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International’s on-going conservation and education work in Rwanda.
Construction of the campus that is expected to take two years, will create an estimated 1,500 jobs (with 40 percent of the workforce being female) and $2million will be spent on local labor. In addition, an estimated $2.5 m will be spent on locally sourced materials.
In her keynote speech the Chief Tourism Officer, Rwanda Development Board, Belise Kariza, reiterated the fact that gorilla conservation is the backbone of Rwanda’s eco-tourism strategy;
“The success of this strategy has been proved by the fact that both gorilla numbers and gorilla tourism receipts have increased. The 2016 gorilla census in the Virunga Massif revealed a 26% increase in the number of individual gorillas from 480 to 604 in a span of five years. In 2017, Volcanoes National Park received more than 35,000 visitors who directly generated $16.75 million USD.
Gorilla conservation and tourism has not only benefited tour operators, safari guides and hoteliers; but it has played a significant role in bettering the lives of the communities living adjacent to the Volcanoes National Park and the economy as well.
This multi-million-dollar campus is not only evidence of Rwanda’s conservation credentials; it is also proof that Rwanda is a great investment destination. Last year, Rwanda registered over 2 Billion US dollars in investment. This is not surprising as Rwanda is currently considered the 11th safest country and the 29th easiest place to do business in the world; the only low income country in the world to be ranked in the top 50.
This campus will not only be training the next generation of Rwandan conservationists, but there will also be skills transfer during the actual construction of this campus, said Belise.
Adding that, “We would like to reiterate RDB’s whole-hearted support for this project, as it demonstrates both the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund’s ongoing commitments to conservation and education in Rwanda, helping people and saving mountain gorilla in Rwanda.”
Since 2005, the Government of Rwanda instituted the Revenue Sharing Program where 10% of all parks revenues are invested back into the community; resulting in 647 community-based projects nationally with an estimated value over $6 million USD. The program has provided housing, schools, health clinics and clean water for communities living in the 4 Districts surrounding Volcanoes National Park.