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Rulindo: Small farm forest owners find opportunities in consolidating woodlots and regeneration

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Rulindo, North-The smallholder forests farmers hope a better future through the establishment of PFMUs (private forest management units)which will play an important part in overcoming challenges in forests management and create different opportunities.

A study conducted on the forest sector in 2016, the National Forest Inventory (NFI), revealed that the smallholder farmers forests in the country which are the majority, were composed of very old degraded woodlots due to frequent premature harvesting, the scattered nature of the forest units which made it difficult and expensive to manage.

To find an arrangement of managing those forests, there came up the idea to create PFMUs (private forest management units) which would bring about consolidated woodlots that could be easy to manage, make bigger forest blocs that can attract the interest of bigger economic operators in the country.

The trial has been effected in 4 districts (Gakenke, Gicumbi, Rulindo and Rwamagana) where 20 PFMUs totalizing 860 ha managed by 20 Cooperatives have been established during two seasons (2018/2019 and 2019/2020), with the support of the FMBE (Forest Management and Woody Biomass Energy) project and the results have proved to be promising, according to Muniru Murwanashyaka, a FMBE support project in Northern Province.

The establishment of PFMUs requires different steps that involve partners, the Ministry of Environment, Rwanda Water and Forest Authority, local leaders and forests owners.

A site in Cyinzuzi Sector where small farm forests are being regenerated

The first step is the identification of the site, a hillside of at least 20 hectares of forests that need to be renewed. Once approved, the second step is of mapping to identify people who own the piece of land and working with local leaders to mobilize people about the benefits of the project and their responsibilities by grouping them into cooperatives.

 Gakwerere Emmanuel, the chairman of a cooperative whose forests are being renewed in Cyinzuzi Sector said the management of their hillsides was hard as they were covered with eucalyptus of old variety. They hadn’t means to regenerate the forests and the productivity was very small.

“We are lucky to have the support from the project to solve all problems including the one of  ‘Thaumastocoris Peregrinus’ bugs that used to attack  our forests. We are planting ‘grandis’ and ‘saligna’ varieties which strongly resist to the bug and we are assured to be assisted once it happens; we hope to get a bright future with a good productivity”, he said.

Ntawugasha Vincent, a leader of ‘Leave the forest mature’ cooperative working in Mugote Cell, Ngoma Sector, said through the support from FMBE project, they managed to restore the hillside of 50 hectares of forest during the last season.

They are ready for maintenance and will take advantages from the collective productivity like taking good decision related to the harvesting calendar and sourcing the market, he added.

Mudacumura Jean Marie Vianney, a member of that cooperative said that before the conversion the site was much degraded. They used to cutting trees every two or three years and the productivity was declining but they feel a better future when they see how fast the trees are growing.

Among the varieties of trees that are being grown in Ngoma, Cyinzuzi and Murambi Sectors of Rulindo District, Northern Province can be the source of electric poles, timber and medicine, perfume, oil for sauna (from leaves).

Delegates of 2019 GCCA+ Regional Conference visited the sites

On the last day of the GCCA+ Regional Conference, October 18, 2019, the participants exercised a field visit there aiming at showcasing the sound management of the small holder forests by grouping them together and coming up with a manageable forest block.

The farmers are advised to generate projects to find a way to help finding an alternative source of income while awaiting the forest maturity to harvest.Those projects can be funded by the government.

Forests in Rwanda cover 30 per cent of the dry land.This is composed of 11.9 per cent of natural forests and 18.1 per cent of manmade forests. The forest ownership by area in the country has been found to be 67 per cent belonging to the private small holder farmers, 3% belonging to the private institutional ownership like churches, 27 % belonging to the state and 2 % belonging to the districts.

By Kanamugire Emmanuel

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