Singita Kwitonda in Rwanda is at the heart of conservation and community upliftment in this area, driving sustainable tourism and growth in the economy of Rwanda.
Singita’s founder Luke Bailes alluded to the immense and ongoing challenge of conserving Africa’s most vulnerable landscapes, in a recent interview with the New York Times. "No matter how much work we do, there is always more to be done because wildlife areas continue to be under threat."
Specific problems like wildlife poaching and pressure placed on Africa’s natural resources by rapid population growth as contributing factors to the health and security of Africa’s biodiversity are some of the biggest problems faced by Singita, as described by him.
The community and conservation team is already hard at work, facing similar challenges as those seen elsewhere in the land under Singita's care, as the construction of Singita Kwitonda Lodge progresses in Rwanda .
Singita's conservation vision for Rwanda and beyond
Claudine Tuyishime is responsible for building and managing strong relationships with all stakeholders including community members, local authorities and NGOs, which aids in the promotion of the conservation programme at Singita Kwitonda.
She also fills her days with the implementation and development of projects that will fulfil Singita's conservation vision, strongly based on the three pillars of community, biodiversity and sustainability.
Claudine is also involved in environmental monitoring and protection in the vicinity of the development site. She is tasked to work closely with contractors to ensure that safe and sustainable practices are implemented by following up with the plant nursery and reforestation contractors.
Singita's big neighbour - Volcanoes National Park
Singita’s large property borders the famous Volcanoes National Park , one of Rwanda's four national parks, known for its successful anti-poaching units. Volcanoes National Park is home to a third of the world’s remaining wild mountain gorillas, currently under threat of poaching and is a critically endangered wildlife species.
The Rwandan government has invested heavily in law enforcement and education due to the illegal poaching of bushmeat and the extraction of natural resources like timber and minerals which is a serious threat across Rwanda’s protected areas.
The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) , the national body in charge of tourism, plays a crucial role in not only attracting tourists but also tackling the conservation work required to ensure that safari and travel enthusiasts have beautiful wilderness areas to explore.
Private sector aids fast-growing tourism in Rwanda
Rwanda has one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in Africa today and the government is dedicated to sustainable development, but it's the private sector involvement that remains essential to the country’s continued rapid economic growth.
The livelihood of the people who live alongside the protected areas is strongly tied to Singita’s contribution in this regard. Micro and small enterprise support is a key part of the community partnership work which is underway, along with various planned education and environmental awareness initiatives, will continue to be a key focus area once the lodge opens its doors in August 2019.
As Claudine puts it, “we’re thinking about the next generation of conservation leaders.”
Gorilla trekking and protection creates jobs in Rwanda
The communities living in the vicinity of Volcanoes National Park and other national parks and protected areas like it in Rwanda have become greatly involved in the industries created by the protection of the land, its wildlife and more especially so the endangered wild mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking has created jobs, increased awareness and tourism as well as provided much-needed revenue.
The existence of the reserve has not only had a ripple effect on social welfare and community upliftment but even more critically so created job opportunities to lessen the dependence of impoverished communities on the state and to help curb the necessity for poaching.
Local communities benefit from a government-mandated revenue sharing programme where 10% of tourism revenue generated by Volcanoes National Park is ploughed back into the community. Put in tangible real terms, over US$600,000 was distributed last year to more than 158 community-based projects through this worthy initiative.
Singita's role in community upliftment
Singita has already employed an estimated 200 local residents on the construction site, and 70 more permanent staff members will be recruited from the area once the lodge has opened its doors. These are exciting times for Singita Kwitonda, as Kwitonda provides an opportunity to raise the bar for sustainable tourism once while broadening the reach of the conservation work that drives everything they believe in and do.
It is also a chance to introduce guests to an incredibly memorable and truly moving wildlife experience that has a direct impact on the future of wild gorillas that is approaching the verge of extinction; an environmental tragedy that Singita is committed to ensuring never becomes a reality.