The Sebeya Catchment in Western Rwanda is facing a series of compounding crises. Steep, mountainous terrain, deforestation, mining exploitation, unsustainable agricultural practises combined and some of the heaviest rainfall in Rwanda results in extreme soil erosion, siltation and turbidity and downstream flooding result economic damage, loss of life and livelihoods.
Sebeya Catchment’s population density is far in excess of the Rwandan national average of 400 people/km2. Limited economic opportunities mean most people depend on subsistence farming on steep, unstable soils. Socio-economic problems are exacerbated by climate change, making an already fragile agricultural economy even more so.
The Rwanda Water Resources Board (RWB) in collaboration with International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) with funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) in Rwanda, is addressing the above mentioned challenges through the implementation of the “Embedding Integrated Water Resource Management in Rwanda (EWMR)” Project across 4 administrative districts: Rubavu, Rutsiro, Ngororero and Nyabihu.
The EWMR project is designed around a participatory Community Approach. A bottom-up methodology that enables communities to implement measures specific to addressing issues at the village level with technical support from RWB, local governments and the EWMR consortium. Communities are empowered through Village Land Use Action Planning processes to identify local problems of landscape degradation and soil erosion caused by deforestation, unsustainable agricultural and mining practises that negatively impact on water quality. Village Land Use Action Plans detail remedial measures to restore landscapes and reverse the degradation.
Recently, the Government of Rwanda has okayed some projects that should be resumed without waiting for the end of the lockdown and among them there is the project on landscape restoration and integrated water resources management in Sebeya river.
TOPAFRICANEWS‘s DUSABEMUNGU Ange de la Victoire has addressed the following 10 questions to Charles Karangwa to help us understand the real issues in Sebeya Catchment, how those issues are being addressed and how the work will be resumed amid COVID 19 pandemic
Charles Karangwa is the Regional Technical Coordinator/ Rwanda Country Representative, Forests, Landscapes and Livelihoods Programme, Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Below are excerpts of our Interview
- What interventions will you start with?
We have started and intend to continue with catchment restoration measures. These include: radical and progressive terraces, agroforestry, trenches in forests and small gullies treatment
- Who are going to do those activities?
Local communities are and will continue implementing these activities under direct guidance and coaching from Rwanda Water Board and districts level officers including social distancing during working hrs with technical support from IUCN
- How is IUCN ready to avoid contamination of COVID 19 among those who are going to progress with the catchment rehabilitation?
Through the project, we will provide prevention means such as masks, gloves and sanitizers. We will ensure social distancing is adhered to when interacting with members of the public and project teams. The government of Rwanda safety guideline will be fully implemented.
- Where are you so far in the project implementation after its official launch last year?
So far, we have worked with local communities to develop 107 Village Land Use Plans (VLUAPs) across all the 4 ditricts of the projects and these have started being implemented in December 2019 up to know in Rubavu, Nyabihu, Ngororero and Rutsiro. The measures under implementations include among others radical and progressive terraces, river bank protections and work to reduce flooding in Mahoko. More than 600 people have been so far working on the project and more than 3000 people are expected to be involved in the next months.
- How do you think citizens can fully take a centre stage in the catchment rehabilitation?
By active involvement in catchment restoration plans through Village land use plans and real implementation of rehabilitation activities. For example, the EWMR project is designed around a participatory Community Approach. A bottom-up methodology that enables communities to implement measures specific to addressing issues at the village level with technical support from RWB, local governments and the EWMR consortium. Communities are empowered through Village Land Use Action Planning processes to identify local problems of landscape degradation and soil erosion caused by deforestation, unsustainable agricultural and mining practises that negatively impact water quality. Village Land Use Action Plans detail remedial measures to restore landscapes and reverse the degradation.
- Our News website has recently published an opinion entitled “What if the Sebeya Catchment plan is fully implemented…” the opinion was triggered by the flooding that happened recently, I would like to know which plans you have to make this catchment healthy and productive?
- Through Implementation of catchment restoration measures (landscape restoration activities) in the whole Sebeya catchment. We already have Sebeya Catchment Management Plan, Village Land Use Action Plans helping implementation of catchment Plan and a total of additional 200 plans are expected to be developed across all districts in Sebeya. These will also be implemented during the project period ( until end of 2022)
- We will also Implement protection structures on Sebeya river to mitigate floods (detailed studies and designs are available), as well as Payment for Ecosystem Service Scheme (PES) to ensure implemented activities are maintained for sustainability.
- The project will also hugely invest in people livelihoods through livestock distribution ( small and big livestock such as Cows, goats, etc) but also through Value chain approach, the project will support small holder farmers to access the market systems.
- How are religious and civil society organizations contributing to these environmental activities?
Church leaders are considered as opinion Leaders in Sebeya and cannot work without their support. During the project launch, churches represented by the Catholic Bishop of Nyundo Diocese committed to fully support mobilization during the lifetime of the project. They are contributing in project awareness and in communities’ mobilisation; ensuring local communities are more involved in project activities implementation
- In which time-frame do you think the catchment will be fully rehabilitated?
The current investment will cover biophysical rehabilitation of the catchments through landscape restoration measures. However, there will be water management infrastructure to reduce water run offs and manage flooding as well. The project will also hugely invest in community education and sensitization for long-term ownership of these investments. However, we cannot guarantee that all problem will then be solved by end of 2022 but at least major threats will have been addressed and fixed. These efforts will continue and the government of Rwanda through ministry of environment, Rwanda Water Resources Board have prioritized these catchments and efforts will continue.
- Can you tell us about financial resources being invested in the Sebeya catchment rehabilitation?
The current project, which is generously funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN), has two windows:
- 6 million Euro allocated to Technical Assistance by the consortium of IUCN and SNV. This budget is used to prepare all upstream work including availing all necessary plans, feasibility studies and on ground technical assistance to ensure systematic response to problems facing Sebeya catchments. It also involved engaging with both districts and other stakeholders to fully be mobilized and support the project.
- Investment Fund 15 million Euro managed by the Government of Rwanda through Rwanda Water Resources Board (RWB) used to pay for works, goods and services eligible in the framework of the EWMR Project implementation.
- Public funding from government also is fully involved to support work on the ground through districts and other government agencies.
- Any other information that you would like to let the public know about Sebeya Catchment Rehabilitation?
- Restoration is a long-term process to gain ecological functionality of the landscape/catchment. This work there will require collective efforts for all peoples involved from smallholder farmers, private sector operators, civil society, local government and all community involved. With these efforts together, it is very possible that using Rwandans home-grown solutions, and the available resources, the problems can be contained and fixed.