Pioneer

This village was developed by Edwin Sabuhoro, who worked in the park, witnessed poaching activities, participated in rescuing a poached baby gorilla and was disturbed by human-wildlife conflicts around and within the park. He decided to pursue his studies in Tourism and Conservation at University of Kent in Canterbury, UK to find solutions to this.

During his Masters degree research entitled “ecotourism as a potential conservation incentive for local communities around Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans”, he found that the costs met by communities around the famous gorilla park were higher than benefits they get, and were more than willing not to stop poaching and killing wildlife to compensate for the losses, and that they were not benefiting from tourism directly. Before finishing his research, he decided to test his hypothesis and offered his life savings to help the community with an alternative source of income.

He offered and divided US$ 2000 to 7 groups (40 families each) of poachers around the park, and in 9 months 5 of them had done excellent work and were not poaching any more, had harvested food and had seeds to plant for the next season’s food, and shared with him 200kgs of potatoes. This proved to him that the village has a potential, to work and curb down poverty in their community, get food, all they need is a little hand to begin, guidance and monitoring. From here, he conducted another mini survey to see what tourism would want while and after trekking gorillas and it was apparent that they would want to meet local people, learn about the Rwandan culture, take a walk in the community and share experiences and have a taste of their culture. Given the fact that communities had this platform of social gathering and exchange, there was need to widen this and make it an experience for travelers to the community, this gave birth to the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village. He therefore decided to invest more than $50,000 of his hard earned income to the project he believed in that later came to change the whole village and provided much needed incentive towards the reduction of poaching and increasing livelihood economic opportunities for the under-privileged around the park. He has continuously invested in different community activities, sponsored children to achieve their education dreams, and among those is Harerimana Emmanuel, who he got from poaching, sponsored him through to get a university degree and has gone from being a poacher to a graduate, and is now employed with park service, his dream job. Emmanuel now started an initiative that targets unemployed youth and linking them to employment opportunities. Bernard Ndayambaje, another graduate Edwin supported is graduating this year, August 2015 and next year he has 2 more going to University.

As he said “ it beats my understanding to see that once poachers are now conservationists, dancers and entrepreneurs. We have found local solutions to local problems, turned fate into fame, and fulfilled our responsibility to conserve our natural resources for the future generations.  Am very happy to see this development, the village, and its people are amazing, they work hard to survive, feed their families, and above all  to be happy. They wish to share this success story with you, and they only require a moment from you to enrich their lives by visiting the village to witness how people can help others to help themselves".