Continental conservation watchdog opens office in Rwanda

Continental conservation watchdog opens office in Rwanda
Kaddu Sebunya, AWF CEO shakes hands with AWF Country Director Belize Kariza as former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and other attendees look on at new office launch in Kigali Monday, July 18. PHOTO | AWF

African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has opened a Kigali subsidiary with eyes on conservation projects and partnerships that provide solutions to the challenges of conservation of wildlife and wildland resources on the continent.

The organization, whose work involves protection of wildlife and their habitats on the African continent, says the new office will give it the much-needed base in the region, and pave the way for collaboration and partnerships with the government of Rwanda and local non-state actors in advancing conservation.

AWF had already been working with the government of Rwanda on a number of projects including the expansion of the Volcanoes National Park as part of ongoing plans to expand habitat for growing mountain gorilla population.

Its interventions range from land acquisition and investment in livelihood projects for the affected communities.

“The opening of this office is a clear manifestation of the importance we attach to Rwanda’s role in biodiversity protection, and an acknowledgement of the huge strides that the government and its partners have made in habitat protection,” AWF’s Chief Executive Kaddu Sebunya said.

He lauded Rwanda’s revenue-sharing arrangement with communities living in conservation and protected areas, and indicated it was one an area governments on the continent should borrow a leaf from.

Under the revenue sharing model, government gives 10 per cent of tourism revenues to communities surrounding national parks and conserved areas.

“No conservation efforts can be successful without the active support and input from the local communities,” added Sebunya.

Mr. Sebunya, alongside former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and AWF Country Director Belize Kariza launched the new office Monday ahead of the Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC).

The latter is first ever continent-wide gathering about conservation to take place in Africa. African leaders, citizens and interest groups will be holding week-long discussions touching on ways to unlock financing gaps for preservation of wildlife asset on the continent, among other topics.

Also read: $6.7 billion urgently needed to preserve Africa’s wildlife asset

Hailemariam Desalegn, who is also AWF patron, said the organisation's Kigali presence will ensure that liaison with government and other agencies focused on conservation is much better aligned and efficient.

~ Reporting by Johnson Kanamugire