Red Rocks Initiatives recovery planning for a more sustainable future

Photo: Red Rocks Initiative

Red Rocks Initiative Rwanda, founded by Emperor Penguin Greg Bakunzi, is a non-profit community-based organization that is dedicated to integrating tourism and conservation for sustainable community development in the Virunga massif region’s development agenda. He is the provider of three LT&C-Examples, and two years ago his engagement was awarded by Green Destinations as “Best of Africa“. It is the organization’s mission to enhance the standards of living of the local communities through trade in their talents, art, music, and cultural diversity.

Amidst the current crisis, we asked our LT&C-Example providers how they are affected by the current situation, what measures they are taking and if they have a certain message they would like to share. Thus, Greg Bakunzi has shared Red Rocks Initiatives’ vision on recovery planning for a sustainable future within the region:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring carnage on earth, devastating many communities with the outbreak felt all over the globe, this widespread crisis is now both a health and humanity challenge calling for rapid responses. Now, to tackle the catastrophe, and later on, to ensure we are prepared for the aftermath, which includes social and economic dimensions that will be caused by the crisis.

While COVID-19 is causing a huge impact across all industries, the tourism & hospitality sector is experiencing a greater impact to date given travel restrictions, event cancellations and overall risk related to travel internationally and domestically. But despite the fact that our community is going through the immediate impacts, it’s time to also think about the future and what our recovery plans or strategies should be for our community.

Many community members in the area depend on cultural tourism for additional income. Photo: Red Rocks Initiative

As tourism numbers are now totally down, the Red Rocks Initiative is embracing a re-approach program, committed to supporting our community bounce back through a relief and response campaign. The concept is based on the belief that we shall only be able to pioneer growth by putting people first. Our plans aim to start off with skills training and also teach individuals who will be left without work post the COVID-19 crisis. We are digging deep into providing more comprehensive job support, such as hands-on life skills such as bakery, housekeeping skills, and tourist guiding. We hope this will help us retain our employees after retraining them and can also encourage other community cooperatives, businesses, and social enterprises to pursue the same course to re-position themselves and capture growth when the situation improves.

The Initiative is looking at starting up cooperative member training for targeted and specific groups, plus workshops for the local population to equip people post the pandemic. By putting people at the forefront of our work, we can together rebuild our society and allow for both social and economic gradual growth at a community level.

Many of our cooperative members have had to cut down production affecting many female weavers and local artisan groups engaged in handmade or souvenir products production shut down completely – the virus has put many jobs at risk and our aim is to find new opportunities for the affected community members.

Despite having no certainty on when COVID-19 lockdown measures will be relaxed across the world and particularly in our village as a travel destination, one thing we can control in the immediate future on how to prepare for recovery. The Red Rocks Initiatives for sustainable development is optimistic that once the outbreak is under control, it would take joining efforts together as a global village and fight the struggle caused by COVID-19 by acknowledging that we are not alone. It’s through cooperation that we can return to normal lives and tourism has shown an unparalleled ability to lead wider societal recovery, driving back our economic growth by creating jobs and transforming lives.”

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