Community-based tourism's contribution towards conservation in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park

Red Rocks Initiative
Published: 14 March 2022
Last edited: 14 March 2022
remove_red_eye 665 Views


Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park (VNP) is sited in the Virunga Mountains, one of the most important regions for biodiversity conservation in Africa. We introduced community-based tourism entrepreneurship working with communities around the village of Nyakinama. We work closely with women and youth cooperatives, integrating their views and wishes through participatory planning meetings. We facilitate the access to market, enabling cooperatives to reach international tourists with their handicraft products and cultural activities. Environmental programmes, linked to tourism products have positive impacts on biodiversity.

Our community-based tourism activities support conservation in VNP. Our model helped in diversifying livelihoods and reduced forest resources dependency. Our community-based tourism programme has a high pro-poor impact, enabling the local community to be included in the tourism value chain, increase their economic status, thus allowing them to spearhead conservation in the Volcanoes National Park.


East and South Africa
West and Central Africa
Scale of implementation
Cold desert
Desert ecosystems
Forest ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Tropical evergreen forest
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Ecosystem services
Gender mainstreaming
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Standards/ certification
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Species Conservation Planning
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
Resilience and disaster risk management
Sustainable urban infrastructure and services
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Infrastructure development
Changes in socio-cultural context
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
Other targets
Poverty reduction
Food security
Cooperative ownership
Environmental protection
Job creation
Social Economic development
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with a company
(I)NDC Submission
Red Rocks Initiative for sustainable development


Musanze, Northern, Rwanda
Show on Protected Planet


  • High human population densities surrounding the park which reach as high as 1000 inhabitants per km2 in some areas.
  • Food insecurity is a driver of dependency on forest resources, with poor households supplementing their subsistence livelihoods by harvesting water, bushmeat, medicinal plants, bamboo and fuel wood from the park.
  • Wild honey gathering in the forest has also caused devastating accidental forest fires.
  • Land is the primary economic asset and 90% of rural people in the region rely on subsistence farming with very few off-farm activities.
  • Population growth due to the region's high fertility and the struggle for available resources and land are driving encroachment on the park’s edge.


  • Single mothers
  • Local artisans (40)
  • Youth
  • Vulnerable families (90)

How do the building blocks interact?

Our approach to community engagement in VNP is distinctly bottom-up in nature. Much of the community development activities around VNP are infrastructure investments that create indirect benefits to the community. Indirect benefits are typically linked to conservation and do not prioritise the needs of those closest to the park. We established community cooperatives to run the cultural activities, provide a venue for marketing the activities as a product to tourists. Collectively, we work with over 300 vulnerable women across 5 cooperatives in an area of high rural poverty around the village of Nyakinama, 8km south of Musanze. Most of the women lacked formal education, majority being widows or single parents. Thanks to the initiative of baskets weaving that are sold to the tourists, those vulnerable women can earn a living.


We promote environmental sustainability and inclusively through projects that are culturally appropriate. 

  • More than 100 women participate in our tree planting activities
  • Created jobs and opportunities for 120 artisans and craftspeople, performers and entertainers, lodgings, dining establishments, crafts supply stores; trained more than 35 youth to work in our campsite as local guides; and supported 25 local artists to engage in producing artistic materials speaking about the urge to conserve the environment.
  • Established local traditional dancing troop composed of 25 women and 5 men who do the drumming for the tourists. 
  • We involved more than 200 women to work in making eco-friendly banana seed bags, to replace plastic bags, which also contribute to soil conservation.
  • The Establishment of Red Rocks botanical garden prevented the locals from entering the park in search of medicinal plants
  • Beekeeping activity which is promoted outside the park provides income to the locals by selling natural honey to the tourists and nearby lodges/hotels thus gaining some income


Red Rocks Initiative

We committed to working in partnership with local people, environmental protection and sustainable development. Our mission statement is to support training, capacity building, environmental protection, nature conservation, and promotion of good practice and the preservation of cultural heritage; describing us as to work with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation and social justice and development that is community-based and sustainable, focused especially on the needs of the  vulnerable.

Marie Louise joined Red Rocks 10 years ago, she is skilled in showcasing how pottery-making is made, once with us she learned how to drum and joined the local cultural dancing troop. She is a single mother of 4 children, her husband died during the atrocities which befallen our country in 1994. She used to be accommodated by well-wishers and supported by social organisation to educate and cater for children but from the income she got from the cultural activities offered at our red rocks, she managed to build her own house and currently she is able to pay for medical insurance for her kids and also manages to pay for the school fees and other needs for her family. It is in this regards that she quoted that Red Rocks has helped her by bringing her together with other single mothers with whom she made friends and shared their experiences on how to engage in tourism activities thus making them connect with foreigners. We gave them an area where they will be selling their products. Initially, she joined Red Rocks when we only had 1 cooperative but now the number has grown and they are happy to share skills and income generated.

Contributed by

info_41523's picture

Gregory Bakunzi Red Rocks Initiatives for sustainable development