25 Jul

While in Gatsibo, I did not donate books to the area's youth center. Instead, I gave some copies to individual students from Groupe Scolaire Bihinga, located in Kabarore Sector. 

As usual, I had a book club session with the teenagers. After skimming through The Akagera Expedition, we talked about the economic trickle-down effect of the Akagera National Park in their community and the importance of environmental conservation.

While revisiting the past, we found out that the area I was visiting used to be part of the national park. This is recent history to me, but my young Kabarore reading buddies consider it ancient civilization. Despite their hometown's proximity to the park, they can't picture it as a wildlife habitat. 

Founded in 1934, Akagera was much bigger than it is today. Over the years, population growth and the arrival of returning refugees led to land utilization challenges. Poaching and other illegal activities became rampant. Eventually, the park lost a big chunk of land and a significant percentage of its flora and fauna. 

During our discussion, we looked into the impact of spreading awareness and implementing strategic policies. When the government joined forces with partners and members of the surrounding communities, the ensuing ecological and economic revival was nothing short of spectacular. 

Under the management of African Parks, the Big Five status has been restored. Numbers across the board are rebounding. An aerial survey conducted in 2021 recorded almost 12,000 animals, an impressive feat considering the population had plummeted to less than 5,000 in 2010. 

While concluding the session, we reaffirmed our commitment to restore the fading reading culture and embrace constructive hobbies. Before I walked out of the door, they asked me if I could ask my sponsors to offer them a free trip to Akagera. As a messenger, I am reaching out to the right people.