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Poacher to protector: How one ICS volunteer is changing attitudes to conservation

24-year-old Irene Duhuzukuri from southern Rwanda was one of the country’s first team leaders with ICS. After learning vital business and management skills, he went on to set up his own conservation project, creating green jobs, tackling poaching and offering attractive internships for university students. He tells his story.

I was born in a rural part of Rwanda, the southern province of Nyamagaba District.

Irene set up a conversation project in Nyungwe National Park called BIOCOOP LTD.
Irene set up a conversation project in Nyungwe National Park called BIOCOOP LTD.

I could see my neighbours struggling to get school materials for their children, good water and many relied on farming activities despite not having enough crops because of land size and acidic soil. I developed a commitment to bring change to my community.

It inspired me to be a volunteer with ICS, and because of the skills I learnt in managing people and time and training through the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), I went on to develop a project to remove a damaging exotic tree specific in the national park.

I had originally heard about ICS through WhatsApp after a call for volunteers and became the first in-country team leader.

I’ve trained people who used to be poachers to now become protectors and gave them jobs.
Irene Duhuzukuri
Irene in his ICS t shirt

Supporting small enterprises

I loved spending my three months with my host family, and exchanging cultures with my British counterpart Samantha. I really appreciated the collaboration with all the volunteers. I’ll never forget the experience of living together with them.

We got CMI training - a once a week, full-day session on business management, analysis and client relationships. These are helpful topics for everyday life.

As the first team leaders of ICS, we were to make a lasting impact within the small enterprises we were assigned to, so that there would be a good example of ICS for following cohorts.  That meant helping eight businesses with their businesses and helps plan their expansion.

Working in Nyungwe National Park
Working in Nyungwe National Park

Conservation in Nyungwe National Park

As part of my Action at Home, I used my skills to put in a place a community-based biodiversity conversation project around Nyungwe National Park called BIOCOOP LTD.

We negotiated a grant to remove exotic tree species in the park. These exotic plans push out native plants, which stops them getting nutrients and sunlight. 70% of the water in Rwanda comes from the national park. Electricity and tourism would not be successful without conservation.

Removing invasive species of tree
Removing invasive species of tree is important to ensure native species continue to thrive.

From poachers to protectors

We conducted training on conversation education in secondary schools and provided green jobs to the local community. I’ve trained people who used to be poachers to now become protectors and gave them jobs.

Students in botany, zoology and tourism come to our project for their professional and academic internships. They participate in everyday activities like field visits and observations. Interns who may have gone abroad to study now come to work in our own country.

Now 100 young people are getting part-time jobs through our project.

I am thankful to ICS for their support and capacity building. Without training, I couldn’t have achieved this all. I hope to put Rwanda on the level of intermediate income countries by using our resources and skills.

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Funded by the UK Government.

ICS is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which projects the UK as a force for good in the world, including reducing poverty and tackling global challenges.

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