Gishwati Community Support during COVID-19

123 food parcels and other assistance – Gisunzu Primary School, August 2020

With domestic and international tourism having restarted in Rwanda, people in the villages close to Bisate Lodge and Volcanoes National Park are seeing some of their jobs and income returning.

Wilderness Safaris in Rwanda supported five villages in this area for the months of April, May, June and July, and so focused on a different area in need for August 2020.

In May 2019 Wilderness Safaris Rwanda signed a 25-year concession agreement with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) for the development of a multi-phased conservation and tourism management programme for Gishwati Forest in Gishwati-Mukura National Park, situated in the west of Rwanda. Development of the tourism product has since been ongoing in this area of the country, with a high percentage of people living in poor conditions.

In August 2020 we decided to focus our support on the people most in need in the villages surrounding Gishwati Forest. The people in the villages are struggling with only a very few jobs available and tourism is at a standstill in this region. To ensure that we supported the correct households in an area adjacent to the forest, we worked together with our partners, the RDB and the Forest of Hope Association (FHA).

With donations from guests who previously visited Bisate Lodge and Magashi we are thankful to have been able to support the villages around Gishwati Forest and nearby Gisunzu Primary School in August.

The village leaders of Rwambeho, Kinihira, Nyarusuku and Ngungura, provided a list of 123 households, consisting of 559 people who are in dire need of support due to the COVID-19 situation.

With the assistance of the village leaders, Wilderness Safaris Rwanda employees, the RDB community warden and the FHA, Aline Umutoni (Community and CITW Co-ordinator for Wilderness Safaris in Rwanda) distributed the parcels containing maize, beans and soap to these households on Friday the 28th of August 2020.

We used Gisunzu Primary School as the distribution centre, and during the handover all people adhered to the COVID-19 regulations of wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

In total we distributed 1 915 kg of maize, 987 kg of beans and 260 soap bars, amounting to over 3 tons of supplies with a total value of USD2 000.

With further help from our donors we are also able to assist the Gisunzu Primary School with essential supplies to prepare for the school’s re-opening after being closed due to COVID-19. USD2 150 will be used to improve the classroom and learning facilities to ensure a hygienic environment. With the help of Wilderness Safaris and Children in the Wilderness the school will organise face masks, sanitiser, soap, Tippy Taps, uniforms, shoes and school materials for all the students.

“As we met with the people in the community they clapped, cheered and sang to express their gratitude to Wilderness Safaris and the generous donors whose contributions made this happen. The villagers are enthusiastic and feel the support, giving them hope for the future and the possible opportunities that will arise as tourism develops further in the Gishwati area”.

Report and photos by Ingrid Baas