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 2021, Akagera’s full-time staff force had increased to 288, 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 2021, the 376 Akagera beekeepers generated - US$50,000 from sales. Communities also benefitted from the women’s chicken cooperative and mushroom-growing projects. The fishing agreement with the COPABARWI fishing cooperative continued, with over 130 tonnes of fish harvested from the park’s lakes, earning over US$102,000 for their 20 members. The fishery activities also contributed 5% to the overall park income, helping diversify revenue streams.
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 2021, Over 18,000 trees across 17ha were planted in communities adjacent to the park, primarily in schools.
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.
After Covid-19, the number of people visiting the park increased significantly, with over 20,000 individuals visiting the park. This resulted in a revenue of over US$1.6 million, and contributed to the park's operating budget by a significant amount. A new coffee shop and campsite were also opened at Lake Mihindi.
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