By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
Kigali-Rwanda: The research that was carried out in the Eastern Province under DeSIRA Research Project has shown that indigenous trees have the potential to deal with the problem of drought and other soil related problems that have been rampant in the province.
This was revealed on Tuesday during the National Agroforestry Research conference under the theme “Trees on Farms: A sustainable solution for Landscape Restoration, Biodiversity and Livelihoods.
The conference is organized by the Ministry of Environment, Government of Rwanda in collaboration with IUCN Rwanda, Enabel, UGent, KULEUVEN and the University of Rwanda and fully funded by EU in Rwanda under DeSIRA agroforestry research project in Rwanda.
The research that was done by the PhD students under this Research Project has also identified other solutions that can support various initiatives that are taking place in the Eastern province among them is the use of the improved cooking stoves that can help to reduce the number of trees cut down by citizens while searching for firewood.
Undoubtedly the results of the research that continues to be carried out in this part of Rwanda under the DeSIRA project will help to make informed decisions in the implementation of Rwanda’s Landscape Restoration programmes not only in the East but also across the country.
According to Vincent Nsabuwera, Interventions Manager in Forestry , Agroforestry and Climate change Adaptation &Mitigation at Enabel-Belgian Development Agency the end objective of the Research that is being carried out in the East of Rwanda under DeSIRA project is to identify ways to restore the degraded land in the Eastern Province and to inform the development partners and various actors in increasing the innovation towards creating bigger impact.
“So far, we are discussing the preliminary findings. The results are already showing, for instance, acceptability of various agroforestry systems in the Eastern Province. We have made trials on the survival of indigenous trees and we want to restore what used to be the tree ecosystem in the Eastern Province.” Nsabuwera said.
“Targeting Eastern Province with these kinds of programmes is because the province is highly vulnerable in terms of climate change. But of course the research we carried out in the Eastern Province will inform the wider scale” He explained
Through the previous work that was carried out on the climate change vulnerability of Rwanda, eastern province stood out to be the most vulnerable province.
However, Researchers said, vulnerability analysis criteria in the sense to the exposure of adaptive capacity also showed that it’s a province that is showing up high restoration opportunities, basically, with the restoration assessment that was conducted by IUCN sometime back in 2015, It was found that Eatern Province is offering opportunities to restore about 500,000 hectares of degraded land that can be restored.
As the Research is a continuous process, Ms. Gatesi Julienne, Rwandan PhD student at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, UGent University and IUCN Researcher in DeSIRA Project, said that in order to be tangible on findings, farmers also are involved throughout the process.
She said “We are working with the farmers using citizen science where the farmers and researchers are collaborating to assess the impact of agroforestry trees on soil quality and crop productivity.”
According to Ms. Gatesi, farmers have now understood that trees increase the health of soil, like water storage of nutrients availability, but also contribute to crop productivity when these trees are well managed.
“The species that we are testing are the ones that are dominating in Eastern Province, like Grevillea and other native trees. But for us, we focused only on boundary based Grevillea and agroforestry systems.” She explained
“Farmers’ response is positive, they are very happy. And most of the farmers who are not even participating in the research, are coming in our meetings and our sessions and trying to cope especially in doing appropriate pruning, expecting that is going also to contribute to the crop productivity improvement.” She added.
“You see that research is a continuous process, you know that now we are assessing the impact of some tree species and we are improving. By tomorrow we are coming up with another innovation to see the better way that we can use agroforestry but I’m assuring you that agroforestry is the best practice which is a climate smart system that can be used even on a small scale land. It depends on how farmers are managing the trees that are growing with the crops.” Ms. Gatesi said
According to Patrick Karera, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Rwanda has started many projects, including the restoration of the landscape in the Eastern Province which is funded by the Green Climate Fund and implemented by IUCN, Enabel, ICRAF and Rwanda Forestry Authority among others.
He said that the restoration investments in the Eastern Province are close to $33 million.
“We should also acknowledge the contribution of the Swedish embassy that provided a top up of 8 million euro to include the biodiversity components of the programme.” He said.
“We also wish to acknowledge the support of the European Union to the DeSIRA programme, to make sure that all those interventions in the Eastern Province are felt by the research and proven innovation in terms of agroforestry to deliver fast and efficiently on the commitments that we have set for the Eastern Province.” Mr. Patrick added before stressing that “efforts are complementing already ongoing programmes, including the annual commitment of the government to earmark resources to districts to make sure that the restoration process is taken as priority at district level.”
“It is also complementing other partners’ investments that are covering the south, west and north provinces. And we count on your continuous collaboration to make sure that we achieve our Bonne commitments and our vision 2050 to keep our Nature and Forest Reserve by 30 percent over the next three decades, “he added.