By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
On March 23rd, 2021, via Webex, Rwanda joined the rest of the world to celebrate three major Days including the International Forests Day, World Water Day, and Meteorology Day which are usually celebrated respectively on March, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Every year.
The three celebrations were coincided because of their connection in terms of its role in environmental conservation, protection and prediction.
In her opening remarks, Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, Dr. Jeanne d’Arc Mujawariya said: “This celebration is also a demonstration of the importance the Rwandan Government attaches to the sustainable management of Water, Forests and the valuable importance rendered by the meteorological services for the socio-economic development of the country.”
The event focused on a range of topics, including the topic on afforestation in Rwanda and other Landscape Restoration projects, in particular the one whose objective is to restore 2 million hectares of Forests on Rwandan territory.
With the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) set to begin, Rwanda’s investment in the legal frameworks to implement sustainable natural resources management and the “border to border” commitment to restore deforested and degraded land are a clear model that will hopefully inspire others around the world.
Rwanda has set a target to increase and maintain 30% of its forest cover by 2024. To date, forests occupy 30.4% (equivalent to 724,662 hectares). In terms of forest management, the 80% public/State forest will be allocated to private operators by 2024.”
Minister Mujawamariya added that “This is the National Strategy for Transformation targets. To date currently, 22,148 hectares (36%) of public forests are now managed by private investors for sustainable management and value addition.”
Afforestation Interventions needed in the Eastern and Southern Provinces
Speaking at the event, Mr. Mugabo Jean Pierre, Director General of Rwanda Forestry Authority revealed that despite some areas having reached more hectares covered by forests, others are still behind citing the Eastern Province and Southern province among the parts of the country where forests are still fewer compared to the remaining part of the country.
According to Statistics, State owned forests stand at 27% of the total cover while Private individuals owned forests count 68% and are hard to manage because the owners are not looking at the public interest of the forests rather are looking at their own.
Mr Mugabo also said that there are another 3% of the forests owned by private Institutions such as faith-based organizations, the tea factories, … and stressed that these forests are better protected than those of individuals. “Based on the Forests cover in different districts, we see that apart from Kigali City especially in Kicukiro District, and Ngoma District where we have low cover and again Nyaruguru, Rusizi, Nyamasheke where we have part of Natural Forest of Nyungwe which covers around 55% of the Forests cover of total land, when we see the Eastern Province and Southern Province, it’s where we have low forests cover and it is where we need a lot of Interventions to make sure that those parts also have increased forests land.” He noted.
In addition to the fact that the Southern and Eastern Provinces seem to have less forests.
The Rwandan government in collaboration with donors, is working on a Landscape Restoration projects, where in the south there is a Project to restore the Mayaga region which is made of the districts of Ruhango, Kamonyi, Nyanza and Gisagara while in the East Province, there are another projects which are being sponsored by various donors.
Currently, Government of Rwanda, through Rwanda Forestry Authority in partnership with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN Rwanda) have started implementing forests and landscape restoration in Nyagatare, and Kirehe Districts in the Eastern Province of Rwanda.
Funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Environment Ministry, the project is being implemented by IUCN, GIZ, World Resources Institute, FAO, World Bank, World Wildlife Fund and AUDA-NEPAD to promote the restoration of a mosaic of forest landscapes, enhance carbon stocks as well as transforming communities’ livelihood in Rwanda and Malawi.
The project aims to restore more than 25,000 hectares of degraded farmland in Kirehe and Nyagatare districts by planting adapted and farmer-preferred agroforestry tree species where most of them are indigenous trees. The project is targeting to impact over 160,000 people.
In the meantime, Mr. Mugabo noted that “there are some gaps in the Eastern Province when you compare investments and interventions per district, the West and South has more interventions than the East.”
AFR100 and Bonn Challenge as solution to Landscape Restoration
In terms of restoration, Mr. Mugabo explained that “the Government of Rwanda has pledged AFR100 and Bonn Challenge targets where Rwanda has targeted to restore about 2 million hectares.
Along the 2 million hectares pledged under AFR 100 initiative, Mr. Mugabo revealed that around 900,000 hectares has been under restoration from 2011 “and now we are at 45% of the target where we have to mention that Gishwati-Mukura was part of the land under restoration and again private forests have been under this restoration through Private Forests Management Unit.”
Commenting on the contribution of the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to the Landscape Restoration in Rwanda, Mr. Karangwa Charles, the country representative of IUCN in Rwanda and a champion for Landscape Restoration in Africa, first explained that “Landscape Restoration is a continuous process of regaining ecological functionality so it is not one day thing because it takes a very long time but not only ecological functionality but also it enhances the human well-being.”
Mr. Karangwa noted that the issue of landscape degradation is not only affecting Rwanda but also the whole Africa citing that land degradation costs Africa USD 65 billion each year and a total of 230 million hectares are affected annually by land degradation.
“And of course, we had the same history in Rwanda. Over the years we see a strong change. The last 10 years we have been investing in landscape restoration but definitely we still have a lot of work to do.” Mr. Karangwa added.
“Africa committed 126 million of hectares to be restored by 2030 and this is also counted to the Bonn Challenge which is a global commitment where 350 million of hectares by 2030 will be restored and we are really working with state and non-state actors to accelerate investment for landscape restoration in the next 10 years.” He added.
He noted that IUCN Rwanda in the past 10 years has been supporting Rwanda to instrumentalise the concept of Landscape restoration through various programs including technical support as well as carrying out landscape Restoration projects at community level.
“And of course, we did this in partnership with the Government of Rwanda and there is a long way to go to achieve the Government Commitment.” noted Mr. Karangwa Charles.