There are more than 300,000 people living in the vicinity of Akagera, and so working with surrounding communities is critical to the park’s long-term viability and local livelihoods.Ten years of community outreach and ensuring that the park delivers tangible benefits to the local communities has made Akagera a source of pride and a valued asset in the region.
When African Parks began managing Akagera in 2010, the park employed 59 people. In 2020, Akagera’s full-time staff force had increased to 270, with the vast majority of staff originating from local communities. The injection of funds into local economies via park staff salaries and the purchasing of local materials and services strengthen community ties and ensure the park’s long-term sustainability.
One of the key pillars of the African Parks model is the acceleration of economic development through income-generating activities. The honey-harvesting project continues to grow from strength to strength. In 2020, the 375 Akagera beekeepers generated US$23,035 from sales. Communities also benefitted from the women’s chicken cooperative and mushroom-growing projects. African Parks continues with the sustainable implementation of fishing cooperatives in the park, to derive additional income for communities.
Helping to educate local schoolchildren on the importance of biodiversity is critical to creating a constituency for conservation. Akagera has hosted regular environmental education awareness sessions each year. In 2020, training was conducted for 22 environmental teachers and mentors from 11 schools to help continue to build and strengthen the project. More than 17,000 tree seedlings were provided and planted at 10 different schools to aid in reforestation.
We have completed a variety of infrastructure projects that improve the quality of life for local communities. Such projects include: constructing social infrastructure (schools, health centres and libraries); building water-provision sites; and helping develop local associations and small enterprises.
Despite Covid-19 closures and travel restrictions, Akagera received over 15,800 visitors in 2020. Tourism continues to be a priority for the park and a focus for the future. Tourism offers the opportunity for self-financing and the injection of tourism funds benefits the local communities.
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