March 1, 2024

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AREECA as a catalyst in combating desertification and promoting Healthy livelihood in Rwanda’s East

Photo: Women and girls critically contribute to land restoration, especially in rural areas where they are the primary farmers and natural resource users.

The fact that the eastern part of Rwanda has often been affected by drought and the responses being provided to reverse the situation origination from both poor rain pattern and forests scarcity that have been extensive in the area, are some of the basis that AREECA (the Alliance for Restoration of Forest Landscapes and Ecosystems in Africa) is a catalyst programme that will help Rwanda’s Eastern Province in combating desertification and promoting Healthy livelihood among the population.

The eastern region of Rwanda has been experiencing rainfall deficits over the last decades and observations between 1961 and 2005 showed that the period between 1991 and 2000 has been the driest since 1961.

Drought has an impact on farmers with crop failures while livestock sometimes lack pastures and water.

As this year’s International Day of Forests is celebrated on the theme, ‘Forests and Health,’ which calls for giving, not just taking, recognizing that healthy forests will bring healthy people.

Directly linking the theme to the AREECA project’s main goal of restoring ecological functionality and biological diversity of the landscapes, climate change resilience and better livelihoods, one cannot say that AREECA is far from the promotion of better livelihood and healthy community resilience in the Eastern Province of Rwanda.

Reforestation includes planting trees to regrow on land that had recently been covered with forest. Photo: IUCN Rwanda

Available statistics up to date shows that Since 2021, AREECA project has implemented various activities including distribution of 1000 improved cooking stoves to vulnerable citizens in Nyagatare and Kirehe Districts, over 900 hectares were planted with agroforestry trees, new forests were planted on 17 ha, forests rehabilitation done on 104 ha, roadside trees planted on 10km, and 1500 fruit trees distributed in Nyagatare, whereas new 120 ha of forests cover, 500 ha of agroforestry cover, 10km of roadside trees and 1500 fruits trees were distributed in Kirehe district.

The 4-year project which will end in 2024 is funded by the International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and implemented by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in partnership Rwanda Forestry Authority, World Resources Institute, World Bank, AUDA-NEPAD, FAO and GIZ.

The Project which is a boost to the country’s green growth initiatives is yielding the early benefits at a time when the country is still celebrating the achievement of a 30.4% national forest cover and the self-reported restoration of over 700,000 ha of degraded lands in the previous decade. 

The programme builds on past initiatives, such as Investment Packages for Rwanda (IPR), to intensify and scale up restoration efforts in the country.

Targeting the restoration of 25,000 ha of degraded lands in the Kirehe and Nyagatare districts, the programme is putting up catalytic and supportive measures that impact the livelihoods of over 13,000 households.

Trees that were planted in AREECA Project zone are drought resistant. Photo: IUCN Rwanda

In a bid to reduce pressure on the forest, the programme is set to distribute 2,000 improved cook stoves as the local authorities to intensify Forests and Landscape Restoration awareness.

As an incentive for restoration, the programme is setting up a Community Environmental Conservation Fund (CECF) that will popularize restoration among the target communities.

AREECA is also strengthening the existing Cross-Sectoral FLR Task Force platform to enhance institutional coordination and knowledge sharing.

Beneficiaries speak out 

Nyiransabimana Alice, a farmer in her early 40s lives with her husband and four children in the Rwimiyaga sector in Nyagatare District. The family loves farming and taking care of their cattle.

Alice, who lost several harvests to climate change-related effects, is now a beneficiary of AREECA project since 2021.

Photo: Nyiransabimana Alice is a beneficiary of AREECA project since 2021. Photo: IUCN Rwanda

Since 2021 Alice joined hundreds of small holder farmers from Nyagatare District to plant agroforestry and fruit trees around the border of their lands to mitigate and adapt to the climate change.

“As you see, there are many more trees in my farmland compared to the last five years. We received Calliandra seedlings free of charge two years ago and many of us were not sure about the importance of the Calliandra, as we wanted massively grevillea.” She said

“Today we are happy to see our Calliandra trees growing very fast, and our cows are eating the leaves from them.” Said Alice while pruning the trees to feed her cow.

“AREECA project has truly changed our lives. Our mindset towards taking care of trees has changed because we know and have experienced the benefits of trees in our homesteads,” Alice said.

Calliandra callothyrsus and grevillea remain one of the agroforestry species introduced in the Rwimiyaga sector of Nyagatare district.

During the tree planting season for 2020-2021, AREECA project campaigned to plant agroforestry trees in Gacundezi I and II in the gardens and on agricultural lands to improve food security.

“We were advised to plant trees, especially fruit trees and agroforestry trees.” Said Nzabandora Emmanuel, another beneficiary of the AREECA project.

“Trees are one of our greatest partners in the fight against the hot temperature in our region, provide us clean air, give us rain, fodder, and shelters.” He added.

As part of the awareness, the local authority committed to sustain activities achieved but also appreciated the contribution of the AREECA project.

“We are very happy to have the AREECA project in Nyagatare District. The project has contributed to the efforts of combating desertification and climate change, but also improved agricultural productivity and consequently livelihoods.” Said Mbonigaba Jean, District Forestry Officer adding that AREECA project helped the district to restore degraded forests and planted new trees.

AREECA project through IUCN Rwanda Country Representative, Kaori Yasuda joined Rwanda in launching the Country’s 2022-2023 Tree Planting Season.

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