Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network

The First Ever Certified Gorilla Friendly ™ Park Edge Community Enterprises Around Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Unique handicraft products and organic honey production by the local cooperatives around Volcanoes National Park are contributing to conservation of the endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei  beringei) and creating sustainable livelihoods for park edge communities.

Mountain gorillas represent a culturally, ecologically, and economically important resource to the three range countries where they occur, as well as holding significant value for tourists globally. Communities living on the periphery of National Parks – the Park Edge – are some of the most important protectors of gorillas.

However, these Park Edge households bear considerable costs in terms of crop raiding and loss of livelihoods from wildlife, and receive a disproportionately low amount of the benefits from tourism.

Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN), in close partnership with the International Gorilla Conservation Programme  (IGCP), a coalition of Fauna and Flora International (FFI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Conservation International (CI), has developed and is implementing the Certified Gorilla Friendly™ program around the Greater Virunga Landscape. This Gorilla Friendly™ program brings together all key stakeholders in gorilla tourism and conservation efforts through IGCP’s community conservation strategy that focuses on strengthening policies and institutions, resolving human-wildlife conflict, and supporting community-based conservation. The certifications available under the Gorilla Friendly™ program include Certified Gorilla Friendly™ Tourism as well as a specific certification for Park Edge community products, the Certified Gorilla Friendly™ Park Edge Products.

In 2021, WFEN and IGCP piloted the Certified Gorilla Friendly™ Park Edge Products Program, a locally-driven initiative that focuses at balancing the demand for tourism revenue with the need to protect mountain gorillas while ensuring the development of robust community enterprises for sustainable livelihoods around gorilla habitat. IGCP engaged with community enterprises and provided technical assistance to build environmental awareness and to develop business and marketing skills of the applicants.

The following community enterprises successfully passed the Certified Gorilla Friendly™ Park Edge Product audit assessment and were awarded certification, joining the global network of certified enterprises at Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network: Red Rocks Initiative for Sustainable Development, COOPAV-Mararo, UNICOOPAV, Hangudushamumigano, Imbereheza Gahunga, and Iteganyirize Kinigi.

“The standards handbook has helped all the beekeepers in the cooperative to understand how to apply the Gorilla Friendly™ standards in our day-to-day operations and the awareness sessions enabled us to understand the impact of conserving the gorilla habitat and how we can contribute toward this, “said Emmanuel Munyezamu – UNICOOPAV.

“We believe this is a great opportunity to access new markets, receive capacity building that will upscale our cooperatives, and be ambassadors for gorilla conservation, “said Agnes Uwamahoro – COOPAV Mararo.

“Including Park Edge community enterprises into our network of certified enterprises has been a key goal as we designed, developed, and implemented our Gorilla Friendly™ program. It is a great pleasure to showcase these creative businesses that are building local economies and actively engaged in gorilla conservation efforts”, said Christine Lippai, Executive Director at WFEN.

About the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network

WFEN and its certification programs represent grassroots farmers, ranchers, herders, artisans, indigenous peoples, and conservation heroes from around the world including two World Bank Development Marketplace Award winners, a U.N. Equator Prize winner, leadership in the world’s marketplace for REDD+ Carbon Offsets, and a Time Hero for the Planet. Wildlife Friendly™ products contribute to the conservation of over fourteen million hectares of diverse wetlands, forests, and grasslands; protect keystone endangered species in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin and North America, including the slow loris, snow leopard, elephant, cheetah, giant ibis, and wolf; and benefit over 400,000 people through increased food security, income, and employment. For more information visit: www.wildlifefriendly.org, Instagram: @wildlifefriendly, Twitter: @wfen