Globally, there is a push to develop sustainable funding mechanisms for conservation projects in areas of critical biodiversity importance. One of the alternative funding mechanisms being explored by various organisations is conservation finance. Conservation finance entails creating economic values and strengthening motivations for sustainable management of landscapes and associated resources through business enterprises run by local communities and other entrepreneurs. This is the model introduced at Rugezi Marsh (northern Rwanda) under a project being implemented jointly by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS). Rugezi Marsh is one of Rwanda’s major wetlands that support nationally significant populations of Grey Crowned Cranes. It is also a source of water and plant materials for over 2000 households.
Ongoing project activities are aimed at developing the capacity of community groups to participate in conservation finance initiatives. This is part of an integrated conservation and community development plan to generate tangible economic benefits for communities through income-generating projects that are directly linked to wetland ecosystem conservation at Rugezi. Field work to assess community members’ technical skill levels and identify training needs, targeting individuals involved in beekeeping and nature guiding, was completed in February. The project is benefitting 120 households and is in line with ecotourism plan for the area being promoted by the Rwanda Development Board. In addition to skills development, our in-country partners will continue to provide technical support and connect the communities to local and international markets. Our project will generate valuable insights on how the concept of conservation finance can be operationalised in Africa.
Ongoing work to develop local capacity for conservation finance in the Rugezi Marsh catchment is funded by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) through BirdLife International.