Hitting the double digits is a momentous occasion! Next year, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge will celebrate a decade of helping people realize their lifelong travel dreams of experiencing Rwanda’s mountain gorillas.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is the brainchild of Aris Grammaticus, founder of Governors’ Camps. It was conceived with the input of dedicated conservationist Annette Lanjouw, who was then working for the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), and in conjunction with African Wildlife Fund (AWF). Aris and Annette understood that in order for the Rwandan gorillas to truly be protected, those living closest to the gorillas must hold a stake in their conservation. Hence, the SACOLA Trust was formed. Representing the surrounding community of some 60 000 people, this trust became the owner of the soon-to-be-built, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, in 2006. Two years later, the doors of Rwanda’s first community-owned lodge were opened.
Over the years, a great number of guests, who come to enjoy Sabyinyo’s warm Rwandan hospitality, have helped see the SACOLA community receive an incredible $2.5 Million via the lodge. This comes partly in rental payments, and partly directly from clients in the form of a Community Development Levy (similar to a Park Fee).
With the community represented by a board of community members, on which Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge has an ancillary advisory role, this money has been used to fund a plethora of community projects, greatly improving the livelihoods of residents in the Kinigi area. SACOLA’s programs also complement the excellent conservation work being done in the region by AWF (www.awf.org) and its local partner, IGCP (www.igcp.org).
Here is a list of just some of the projects completed and ongoing in the last nine years:
• The creation of vegetable gardens for a community farming project
• The reconstruction of a local primary school including construction of 71 classrooms.
• The equipping of local schools with desks.
• The provision of school fees for children from the poorest families.
• The construction and equipping of computer labs for the local community.
• A contribution to a rural electrification project
• The construction and maintenance of local roads
• The building of homes for survivors from the genocide
• The rehabilitation of the road leading to the Community Cultural Centre
• The protection of water dispersal systems and erosion control
• The setting up of a tourist “Community Walk” enhancing local crafts and businesses
• The construction of a Community Cultural Centre
• The construction of a small Amphitheatre
• The construction of bridges in the local area
• The construction of a local nature walk.
• The construction of water tanks and water collection points for the community
• The construction / repairs of the buffalo wall along the park’s edge to protect farmers crops from marauding buffaloes
• The providing of support to local beekeepers
• The providing of financial support to the local guide cooperative
• The establishment and support of a local pig project.
• The establishment and support of a local sheep project
• The purchase of land for a poultry project for widows of the genocide.
• The creation of carpentry and other micro- enterprise workshops for the community.
• The financing of the costruction of 2 SACCOS (community banks)
• Initiating a one family one cow program which provides cows to poor people in the local community.
• The donation of over 200 cows to the poorest members of the community.
• The construction and equipping of 28 homes for survivors of the genocide.
• The construction of two villages which house 126 formerly destitute farmers on the fringes of Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda”. The village provides houses, water tanks and plots of land to people living close to the edge of the national park who are being resettled within the framework of the park extension project.
• The construction of a Health Centre on the Nyange Sector.
Yes, it is a long list! And the team at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge are looking forward to another 10 years of helping to make a significant impact of the people of the SACOLA community. Guests staying at this lodge can rest easy knowing that they are directly contributing to the community by being there.