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Rwandan Tourism Industry Boasts Coffee, Tea...and Wildlife

Africa’s tourism industry is growing, as practitioners develop new concepts. In Rwanda, Silverback Adventures has recently added agritourism to its list of offerings. The agency took the name of the country’s famous Silverback gorillas known for protecting their group.

The owner and operator of Silverback Adventures, John Kayihura, has been in the tourism business for more than 20 years. Voice of America reporter Angel Tabe asked about agri-tourism: “Agri-tourism is coined to involve the big farmers of coffee and tea, because it’s a huge surprise when people see it in the plantations.”

Kayihura says that after consumers of coffee and tea visit the plantations, they better appreciate the huge efforts put in by farmers in order for the final product to reach their table. Such physical contacts even lead to business deals beneficial to local farmers:

“Coming to see how the farmers work, consumers realize how hard it is because the end product is sold very, very well, but the farmer remains…not rich at all, and in some countries the buyer prefers to buy from the farmer, so they get direct benefits from it,.” he said.

Kayihura distinguishes between agri-tourism and ecotourism. He says the one is basically about agriculture and individual farmers, while the other is a community affair with benefits to the local population. Kayihura also says it protects and conserves resources. He says the prospects for the agri-tourism concept are good and that it's already doing well in other parts of Africa:

“It’s actually gaining interest in Kenya, Tanzania, where…the locals also get to know what’s going on in the outside world….”

Kayihura points out the difficulties in promoting this type of tourism:

“It’s all rudimentary right now…We need some accommodation in the plantations; tourists stay there and the money would go to the local communities.” About leisure tourism, Kayihura says, “We drive to the edge of the forest, then they [the tourists] can walk…ride back to appreciate the fresh air, local people, and this is gaining momentum.”

He says although the animals know visiting humans are harmless, they will not tolerate them for too long. He says there is a “gorilla etiquette” that everyone must abide by:

“They [the gorillas] get sick and tired of you and start asking what the hell are you doing here…what is your story.”

In Rwanda both national law and international conventions protect wildlife, so the local people are very protective; they do not allow hunting or poaching, but work together to make tourism quite lucrative in their country. Says Kayihura, “I am living comfortably by it, I know other companies elsewhere that are too.”

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