How Local Communities are Benefited from EocTourism and Turn Money into Real Value

7 min readNov 2, 2022
Fig. 1 Kinigi sector, Musanze, Rwanda in Google Map

Kinigi is a sector under Musanze, situated the foot of Rwandan volcanoes. Over time, agriculture is the main industry of Kinigi. Similarly, Kinigi has “Kitenge”, potato-dominant cuisine and also speak Kinyarwanda like other rural sectors. Distinguishingly, Kinigi occupies the entrance to Virguna National Park and interweaved with it. Upon that, tourism has been thriving since Dian Fossey emphasised on the importance of ecotourism towards Gorilla’s conservation in the epilogue of her epilogue, Gorillas in the midst.

Nationwide Revenue-Sharing Scheme

Accompanied with the thriving ecotourism industry, the local life has gained dramatical improvement. Since 2005, ORTPN, which was eventually incorporated into Rwanda Development Board, RDB in 2009, has launched a revenue-sharing scheme. An innovative business model to promote the sustainability of VNP and local community. In this model, five percent of tourism revenues from VNP goes straight to local community projects around the national park, including Kinigi sector. These revenue ensures local development and simultaneously reduces the incentive of encroachment into VNP [1].

According to Charles (2019)’s research, ecotourism activities have proved to alleviate poverty in local community, regarding employment opportunities, health service, education, water supply, electricity and infrastructure [2]. Most of the projects target at public service, which commonly share with all citizens. It is hard to allocate the resources according to economic and social status. However, some locals, especially in vulnerable groups, have not obtained significant improvement in their daily lives, and still ought to struggle hard for living.

Community-based Revenue-Sharing Scheme

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, one of the luxury hotels in Kinigi, servicing for ecotourists who come for gorilla trekking. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge also known as Sabyinyo community lodge, is Rwanda’s first ever community owned lodge [3]. It originally constructed by a representative of community, Sabiyino Community Livelihood Association, SACOLA and managed by a specialized ecolodge company, which is Wilderness Safaris. Until now, the managing company to pay SACOLA bed night fees and a percentage of monthly net income, and they are always in communication about SACOLA’s project in local community.

The direction of SACOLA’s projects align with RDB’s projects, targeting at empowering and developing local community. The difference is SACOLA focusing more on vulnerable groups other than infrastructure and public service. As I strolling in Kinigi, I saw public lighting programme in installation, modern public hospital in operation, local people living in modern village. The contribution from RDB and Rwandan government are obvious, but where are SACOLA? What have SACOLA done for community development?

To answer this question, I went and visited several SACOLA’s projects with Damien Nkubana, the kindly local host in Musanze. He helped with introduction of projects and the translation between locals and me, from English to Kinyarwanda, and vice versa. I released that RDB’s work is the skeleton of community, and SACOLA’s is the flesh and blood of community.

Case Studies of SACOLA Project in Kinigi

Recoding while I was visiting, here are few projects supported by SACOLA in Kinigi sector, including domains across ICT education, local textile business, chicken nursing, etc…

ICT Education Centre

SACOLA notices that digitalisation should be build up step by step. Therefore, SACOLA first provides a space for the local community to access technology. SACOLA has done this by donating computers from Computer-Aid UK and other technology, giving access to power and internet, and supplying training to use this technology. People in the community are also welcome anytime. Our achievement include:

(1) Provision of Technology: hardware & software

In Kinigi SACOLA ICT centre, 12 computers, a server and Wifi router are servicing. With installation of Microsoft Windows and Office, users are able to browse websites, connect to online service for office documents, document offline files and practice ICT skills. Furthermore, a printer provides locals with printing service.

Fig. 2 SCOLA ICT centre opens for service provision during the whole week except for Saturday.

(2) ICT skills training

With connections from SACOLA, skillful trainers are hired to join the ICT centre. The training programme targets young students who still study in primary or secondary school without resources. This can benefit vulnerable children to acquire ICT skills.

The ICT skills training sprints are held mostly on holidays, when students have abundant leisure time to enjoy training. Afterwards, those children would get back to school to expand their skills and knowledge seamlessly with other students.

Fig 3. Trainers improve their skills and prepare materials for coming kids.

Tailoring Workspace & School

SACOLA discovers the importance of inheritance of traditional textile, for Rwandan culture and also for community. Local textile and handicrafts businesses, including mat weaving, arts & crafts, and tailoring are funded, and the achievement includes:

(1) Tailoring school with licences

SACOLA provides two classrooms to train apprentices to become tailors. The training is given by local, sophisticated women, in order to provide new graduates or other enthusiasts with sufficient tailoring skills. After a trainee acquires all required skills, SACOLA grants the tailoring licence to him/her, proving the capability of a professional.

Weaving/sewing machines are provided in the school by SACOLA as well. Students can learn skills here without any financial difficulty. The white board stands by the wall provides creative ideas with space to develop. Tables and chairs create a comfortable environment for working and learning.

Fig. 4 A well-functioning weaving/sewing machine provided by SACOLA
Fig. 5 A classroom/workspace of tailor school with equipment and materials with diligent tailor

(2) Production of local clothing and textile products

These machines and all equipment in tailoring school are not only for training, but also used for producing local clothing and textile products. Trainers and graduates from tailoring school are more than welcome to come back and put their creative ideas into practice. We believe the unification makes the community stronger. You can find many of these beautiful products on sale at the local markets. This provides employment and income to those in need.

Fig. 6 Diverse products hang on a clothes rack and are really to sell.
Fig 7. A sophisticated tailor is making products using the weaving/sewing machine provided by SACOLA.

Poultry Husbandry

SACOLA established a chicken coop, including three cabins and a water tank in the middle. Then, widows were recruited by the local government in Kinigi. They work in the chicken coop, based on the daily tasks such as refilling water, feeding food, and cleaning chickens’ dungs.

Fig. 8 A chicken cabin, used for raising chicks, with a label of contributors to this project.
Fig. 9 Chicks are cuddling together at the corner of one cabin inside the chicken coop.

The product of chicken coop, is egg. Everyday the chickens are able to produce hundreds of eggs. Those eggs are transported to local markets and hotels. The demand always surpasses the supply. Which makes those who would like to purchase these eggs need to order in advance.

Furthermore, SACOLA further implements ownership strategy. An ownership strategy gathers the will of owners and targets at a common purpose and anchors on shared values. It further adds to the corporate governance bundle to mitigate negative consequences led by disorganisation [4]. In this project, widows are entitled to share the revenue, and it ends up being a sustainable business for them.

Mushroom Farming

SACOLA discovers the potential of mushroom growing in Kinigi community. The mushroom business creates job opportunities for locals. At present, three mushroom farms have been established by SACOLA and 14 individuals work in these places.

The product simultaneously provides an alternative food option and tackles malnutrition in the local community. Substantial demands and interests have been shown by local markets and hotels. For selling mushrooms of 5,000 Rwf in the market, it is calculated to invest 1,500 Rwf in production, and 600 Rwf contribute to the purchase of mushroom grow bags (Jancao Technology).

The potential of mushroom growing business in Kinigi is significant. This project improves local job creation, mitigation of malnutrition, and social well-being.

Fig. 10 Black oyster mushrooms grow on compost in a mushroom cultivated bed.
Fig. 11 A local employee harvests white oyster mushrooms with happiness.


During the time, staying in Musanze, transporting by bus between Musanze city and Kinigi, I have connected with many local people. Sometimes, I doubted about these projects whether they are really helpful. Every time while walking around these villages, I was stopped by local kids asking for money, biscuits or any other things. I cannot help but sympathise those kids, but I firmly believe that give them money would not improve their lives sustainably. Money can buy a meal for them tonight, but tomorrow they will come back on the street and ask other foreigners for money.

“Don’t give me the fish but teach me to fish.”

A proverb comes up in my mind. Rather than being a money donator, I would more love to make efforts to work on hand. SACOLA has launched some many projects to help vulnerable groups in this local community, but it apparently has room for improvement. What’s that? I am going to investigate deeper and “get my hands dirty” in the rest of my stay.

Last but not least, to see more about what SACOLA has done or is doing. I kindly recommend you to visit SACOLA’s website.


  1. Nielsen, H., & Spenceley, A. (2011). The success of tourism in Rwanda: Gorillas and more.
  2. Kayihura, C. (2019). Tourism activities and poverty alleviation in Musanze district; Kinigi Sector (Doctoral dissertation, University of Rwanda).
  3. Who We Are — SACOLA. (2022).
  4. Jonsdottir, G. E., Sigurjonsson, T. O., & Poulsen, T. (2020). Ownership strategy: A governance mechanism for collective action and responsible ownership. Corp. Ownersh. Control, 17, 34–45.