Strengthening Sustainable Ecotourism in and around Nyungwe National Park (SSENNP)

With a wealth of biodiversity and spectacular landscapes, Rwanda has emerged as a major tourist destination in Africa, with the historic Nyungwe National Park as one of its prime attractions. To help support the Rwanda Development Board’s (RDB) efforts to improve overall management of the national park, the U.S. Agency for International Development launched the Strengthening Sustainable Ecotourism in and around Nyungwe National Park (SSENNP) program in 2010. The five-year project helped local communities and private sector partners to initiate and improve ecotourism activities in and around the park while gaining tangible financial benefits from conservation efforts at Nyungwe. Over the course of its implementation, SSENNP helped transform Nyungwe National Park into a viable ecotourism destination capable of generating sustainable employment and equitable income for local communities and private-sector stakeholders, providing economic incentives to continue conserving the park’s rich biodiversity.

Sample Activities

  • Created consistent brand and marketing materials to promote Nyugnwe National Park as a tourist destination.
  • Developed market-driven products and marketing strategies to increase private sector investment in infrastructure and services.
  • Cultivated joint ventures between local communities and the private sector to increase the availability of visitor accommodations and develop new attractions.
  • Trained local communities to integrate into existing and new value chains around niche products such as bird watching, chimpanzee tracking, cultural activities, restaurants, and hotels.

Select Results

  • Created 25,000 days worth of paid employment for local population, working at cooperatives, renovating park infrastructure, and improving trails.
  • Supported five local cooperatives in generating an 846 percent increase in the incomes of the area’s rural population over the five-year lifespan of the project.
  • Project activities contributed to a doubling of visitors to Nyungwe National Park over five years, with a 32 percent increase in visitors between 2013 and 2014 alone.
  • Implemented comprehensive marketing and public relations strategy, resulting in Nyungwe National Park winning awards from the British Guild of Travel Writers and the Society of American Travel Writers, as well as being one of only two African destinations named to the “Best Trips for 2014” list by National Geographic Traveler. 
  • Built capacity of 1,456 trainees in natural resource management and biodiversity conservation (46 percent of whom were women) and provided training in tourism management to 1,015 individuals.
  • Used small grants to support start up of community ecotourism ventures and delivered training to groups on how to provide high-quality products and services to visitors (40 percent of trainees and 60 percent of grant beneficiaries were women).

Client: U.S. Agency for International Development
Contract: 2010–2015