About 12 Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLAs) in Rwanda whose income was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have received Rwf 16900,00 ($17000) per person. The beneficiaries are park-edge Associations that largely depended on tourism for a living. According to Benjamin Mugabukomeye, IGCP’s Rwanda Country Coordinator the funds will boost the Associations’ loan portfolio, increase their lending capacity and enable members to start up and or boost their alternative income generating activities with the aim of improving household incomes. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the region that saw to the suspension and later the slow pick up of tourism, most park edge entrepreneurs have been out of business causing a lot of poverty and strife among the community.
While the VSLAs have been operational for the last 16 years, their financial status has been poor and /unable to give bigger loans to their members. Members could only get between Rwf 20,000 -30,000 ($19.85 – $29.78) but with the new donation, the loan amount is expected to increase to Rwf 100,000-200,000 ($ 99.27 – $ 198.55).
Empowering Park edge communities to be self-sufficient reduces their dependence on the protected area and consequently fosters safety of the mountain gorillas and their natural habitat.