The competition was organised by Trócaire, BIOCOOR, and IPRC Kitabi and asked candidates to present their biodiversity initiatives and explain how they will give back to their communities after completing their studies.
The six winning students, who are aged between 25 and 35 years old, are from districts surrounding the Nyungwe National Park in southwest Rwanda. Three students will study a three-year programme to get an advanced diploma in Nature Conservation, and three will study for a diploma in Tourism and Travel Management at Rwanda Polytechnic University.
Thanks to funding from Trócaire and Jersey Overseas Aid, the students will receive tuition fees and costs for food and accommodation. As part of the programme, the students will also volunteer during school holidays with BIOCOOR and EcoVillage to work on conservation projects and eco-tourism initiatives.
One of the selected students, Nowa Niyonizeye, who is from the Nyaruguru District, said that from young age he has always dreamed of working in the eco-tourism sector.
I have always been committed to creating positive change in my community. I am now feeling grateful to be a part of this program supported by JOA and Trócaire and I can’t wait to graduate and go back to help my community. I will also volunteer with BIOCOOR to learn a lot from them.
Once he completes his studies, Nowa’s goals are to promote eco-tourism in Nyaruguru District and the integration of tourism and nature conservation.
Laurence Uwimana, who is from the Nyamagabe District, said she is looking forward to empowering women in the biodiversity sector.
I was very happy to win this scholarship and I can assure everyone that after graduation I will play a wide role in conservation, especially through empowering women and training them to know better their role in the protection and conservation of biodiversity.
The six students are due to complete their university programmes in December 2024.
Their appointment comes at a time where the relationship between humans and nature is increasingly under strain. A recent report by Ipbes, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, provides compelling evidence that humans are overexploiting wild species and habitats. Harmful activities, including habitat destruction, poor farming practices and pollution, have altered ecosystems significantly, driving many species past the point of recovery.
Rwanda’s economic and social well-being is strongly linked to natural resources, underpinned by its biological diversity. Over 65 percent of Rwandans are directly reliant on these biological resources for their livelihoods, including agriculture, forestry, and tourism (NISR, 2016).
Rwanda’s geographic location along the Albertine Rift bestows rich biological diversity across a variety of biomes. From the volcanic mountain ranges in the west to the lowland forests, woodlands, and grasslands towards the east, Rwanda is endowed with biodiversity. Its four national parks, natural forests, and wetlands which cover nearly 10% of the national territory form the backbone for biodiversity protection.
Ange Imanishimwe, Executive Director of BIOCOOR, said he is excited to see the students become future leaders in conservation and tourism in Rwanda.
I am confident that the investment done by Trócaire and JOA in providing scholarships to the youth around Nyungwe National Park is a wise strategy that will sustain the accomplishments of the conservation projects in and around this tropical rain forest rich in biodiversity. I hope to see these students becoming the future leaders in conservation and tourism and giving back to their communities and ending both poaching and extreme poverty around this protected area in the southwestern Rwanda, Mr Imanishimwe said.