Rwanda and Costa Rica have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Cooperation with a focus on payment for ecosystem services known as PES.
The MoU has been supported by the International Union for Conservation Network (IUCN) and Conservation International.
Speaking at the Signing Ceremony which took place on Friday 15th March 2019, Costa Rica Minister for Environment and Energy Carlos Manuel Rodriguez said “If you came to Costa Rica, you might think you are in Rwanda. Our countries share many similarities and have much to learn from one another. We are incredibly impressed by Kwita Izina, the restoration of Akagera National Park and of course Umuganda.”
Rwanda’s Minister of Environment Dr. Vicent Biruta on his side said “”We are very pleased to be signing this Memorandum of Understanding with Costa Rica today. This is a great example of South-South cooperation and presents many opportunities to share experiences.”
Both Carlos and Biruta are in Kenya where they have attended the UN Environment Meeting.
Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) is an approach that promotes good management of environmental resources to provide ecological services.
Under this system, farmers or landowners are given some incentives in exchange for managing their land to ensure sustainability of ecological services.
As Rwanda plans to introduce this system, learning from other countries where PES also known as Payment for Ecosystem services has become relevant, It is against this background that Conservation International (CI) and the Government of Rwanda met in 2015 to discuss the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) which was signed in 2012 by 10 African Heads of State including Rwanda.
In the meeting, Rwanda expressed interest in developing PES as a priority to achieve sustainability goals.
In line with this decision, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez visited Rwanda to raise awareness on PES.
During his visit in Rwanda in November, he met with the team at Water for Growth Rwanda where he shared the experience of Costa Rica and how the country has utilised PES to address conservation challenges in a sustainable manner.
At the time the Former Team Leader at Water for Growth Rwanda (ISU), Ebel Smidt discussed the work of Water for Growth Rwanda and shared the experience of the catchment approach. He mentioned that PES fits well with promoting the integrated water resources approach.
While presenting the experience of PES in Costa Rica, Carlos Manuel highlighted the importance of good leadership citing that the leadership in Rwanda alone is confirmation that PES will excel once implemented.
He mentioned that his visit focussed on engaging in high level policy dicussion as a tool for national wide landscape restoration.
“My country (Costa Rica) was a highly deforested nation and impacts were felt in many sectors. Water quality had reduced due to soil erosion and intensive use of chemicals. Our soils were too fragile and some land was not suitable for agriculture. Industries and factories agreed that they were paying heavily for poor water quality, so we approached them and agreed to implement policies that would reverse this situation,” Manuel explained.
He added that the Incentives for ecosystem approach was adopted and people were paid to protect the forests. A map which shows which areas should be forested to ensure sustainable availability of water in Costa Rica – was drawn. Today siltation has gone down & curbing deforestation has been a success.
“Sharing experiences with the government and private sector leaders will help mobilise support at high level for IES specifically for a sub-national pilot in the Yanze Catchment with future ambitions to upscale to a national level.”
He also emphasised that water should be seen as a public domain and everyone intending to use it for economic reasons should pay and acquire water permits.
The Water for Growth team engaged in more discussions with the IES expert before he continued with several meetings to mobilize support for IES implementation in Rwanda.