The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) will host its ‘Kwita Izina’ gorilla naming ceremony on September 6 at the Volcanoes National Park, and will use the opportunity to host a conservation event immediately afterwards.

“As part of this year’s Kwita Izina ceremony, Rwanda will host the first ever Business of Conservation Conference (BCC) from September 8-9,” the RDB said in a statement. The BCC has been organised in partnership with the African Leadership University, and will bring global conservation leaders together to link conservation with sustainable tourism. “Furthermore, a conservation exhibition focused on the conservation trends and practices will take place on September 7,” the statement says. The exhibition will be open to the general public.

On August 23, the RDB will also donate 729 cows to communities surrounding the Volcanoes National Park in Burera, Nyabihu, Musanze, and Rubavu districts. This is part of the RDB Tourism Revenue Share Programme that was initiated in 2005 and aims to guide investment in the areas surrounding Rwanda’s national parks, and ensures that 10% of all park revenues is given back to the communities.

Since 2005 the RDB has distributed over RWF5.2bn (USD5.7) to 647 community-based projects. These projects have led to clean drinking water, milk, health centres, classrooms, and housing to members of the communities living around the Akagera, Nyungwe and the Volcanoes National Parks.

Speaking to the gathered media, the RDB Chief Tourism Officer, Belise Kariza, said: “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 programme.”

Kariza added that 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,” Kariza concluded.