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Project Inspire Africa Chat with Ange Imanishimwe

In the face of environmental degradation and unemployment,Ange Imanishimwe is creating thousands of jobs through biodiversity conservation in Rwanda. In this interview with Project Inspire Africa,Ange shares his story and its impacts in Rwandan communities. 

Can we meet you? 
 My name is Dr Ange Imanishimwe, PhD, a 35-year-old Rwandan citizen. I love watching the wildlife and mobilization on biodiversity conservation. 

 Tell us briefly your childhood experience. From a young age, I committed to creating a good change in my community by integrating biodiversity conservation, community health, agriculture, entrepreneurship, climate protection, and sustainable development in Rwanda. When I was a child, I was used to watch the animals especially birds and grasshoppers and was amazed by discovering what the nature has. I remember that I was used to forbid the kids from destructing the nests of the birds and from killing the animals. No wonder today I am a Biodiversity Conservation Activist who is inspiring others to conserve nature.

 What’s your educational background? 
 I hold a bachelor's degree in Zoology and Conservation and an MSc in Biodiversity Conservation from the University of Rwanda. I also hold a combined PhD in Biodiversity Management from the University of Rwanda and University of Hawaii. I have also obtained a certification from the University of California, Berkeley in Public Policy and Civic Leadership.

 What are your contributions towards making your country a better place?
I have worked in The Nature Conservancy ( as a short term Consultant. In this role, I negotiated nearly 500,000 USD in grants and investments from the South Korean government, UNDP, The Van Tienhoven Foundation, The New Forests Company, and others to support my community. I have served as a Tourist Guide in Nyungwe National Park at the Rwanda Development Board for four years ( I founded Biodiversity Conservation Organization BIOCOOR with the vision of putting Rwanda to the level of middle income countries by integrating biodiversity conservation, ecotourism, climate protection, community health, natural resources management, and sustainable development of Rwanda. As a result of the work we do at BIOCOOR, I have been able to create 27 permanent jobs and 1800 part time jobs in my community and have built Dr IMANISHIMWE CONSERVATION LEADERSHIP CENTER around Nyungwe National Park. This Centre focuses on capacity development in entrepreneurship, leadership, project management and biodiversity conservation. We have so far trained 18 students from African Leadership University and the University of Rwanda. We have also extended our programs to the whole Southern Province and our Headquarter is in Huye. 

 What have been your achievements?
BIOCOOR has launched projects to promote youth entrepreneurship, safe water and sanitation practices, proper dairy processing techniques, the removal of invasive plants that damage the forest, as well as soil improvement and composting. BIOCOOR also includes Information Communication Technology training to teach the local youth on how to use technology to communicate effectively. The Organization has created more than 3800 jobs for the local people. BIOCOOR has built the capacity of 15,000 persons in biodiversity conservation and helped 3 companies to operate in the region. Around 200 students have participated in our internship program at BIOCOOR and are today driving positive social change in their communities. We have also established a botanic garden around Nyungwe to promote ecotourism and transformed 500 poachers into protectors. 

 What motivated you to do what you are doing?
Local farmers near the Nyungwe National Park live in extreme poverty due to the acidic soil, which results in a low crop yield. Poor farming conditions have led to illegal activities, such as poaching and deforestation, as a means to survive. These activities damage the environment, so BIOCOOR is trying to preserve the forest, while simultaneously influencing the economic development of the people living near the NNP. Seeing this problem, I was inspired to take action and this is how BIOOCOR came into existence. 

  What has been your major challenge since you began your nonprofit? 
Securing funding was a major challenge because some people undermined us because they felt we are young. We were challenged to realize that those who were supposed to help us are the ones who were pulling us down; they did not believe in our initiative and ambitions. But the story has now changed. 

 How have you been able to raise money to implement your ideas? I really know the principle of 5Cs: Collaboration, Communication, Coordination, Courage, and Competence. I didn't start with any money but I started with discipline and the ability to sell my idea to potential funders convince those who have money why they should help us. Many of them understood our cause and supported BIOCOOR. 

 Could you share with us one or two experience(s) you have had in the course of your campaign that has impacted on you? 
 The first thing I witnessed as we began our work is the change of mindset among my people. I have witnessed poachers become park protectors and they shifted from extreme poverty to better standards of living. The number of animals currently at the Nyungwe National Park has increased due to the tremendous decrease in poaching because of the advocacy work of BIOCOOR and our partners. Our conservation and teaching work has inspired the people and we are having the youth who are doing business in conservation. This is the essence of leadership and entrepreneurship that we have been fighting for. The impact of our campaign reached the UK and now our work is been supported by a charity called NYUCO. 

 What are your prospects in the next 5 or 10 years? 
 In the next 5 to 10 years, we will extend our work to Kenya, UK, USA, Tanzania, one Asian country, and Australia. We plan to create more 5,000 green jobs in that period. 

 What do you think is the major cause of unemployment in Africa, and how can we get over this? 
 Our environment is hostile to business development and our old people have perfected the act of undermining youths making it difficult for us to rise to our fullest potentials. To make progress,our leaders must begin to think critically and embrace ideas that will help thrive as a continent. 

 If you had an opportunity to speak to presidents in Africa, what would be your message. 
 Dear Presidents, We have everything we need to help our people to get jobs and have the basic income. Let us revise our policies and concentrate our work at improving the community livelihoods through sharing the resources and supporting the people in need. Also let us revise our partnership with the West, instead of receiving from them; let us give them as well. Let us have our children studying at our own universities and ensure that the quality education matches global standards. When we attain this height, Africa will take her place on the global stage.

Thank you for sharing your story with us and we do pray that many will be inspired as they read. 

It is my pleasure.

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