Cattle keepers have invaded thousands of hectares of trees recently planted in Tabagwe sector in Nyagatare district with their cattle, threatening the source of water for several villages in the district.
The trees were planted by Ministry of Natural Resources in collaboration with Rwanda Defence Forces reserve force.
The destruction came to the fore during a weekend on-spot visit by the Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi, Maj Gen Jerome Ngendahimana, the Deputy Reserve Force Chief of Staff and local leaders, where they witnessed women and men grazing cows in the growing trees.
The minister vowed to deal with all the people involved in the degradation of the forest, adding that he had convened a meeting with all stakeholders and put in place strategies and plans to smoke out culprits from the forest.
He urged district leaders and other relevant authorities to take the problem seriously by taking legal measures against perpetrators of such acts.
He also warned irresponsible leaders at various levels, saying they would be held accountable for their inactions.
"We caught one cattle keeper red-handed...he was comfortably grazing cows in the trees that took us a lot of energy and money to plant. This kind of irresponsibility can't be tolerated. I have told the farmers and local leaders to take care of the trees or risk facing the law," he said.
Kamanzi further said the issue of termites that have been destroying the trees would be addressed soon.
Meanwhile, John Gatare, a farmer who was caught grazing cows in the planted trees, apologised and vowed never to repeat the crime.
He admitted that his actions was regrettable and called upon other farmers to desist from forest destruction.
"I feel ashamed of my actions that were guided by myopic thinking and greed. We all know the importance of trees, they attract rainfall, control soil erosion, etc. After talking to the minister and other leaders, I am convinced than ever that we, farmers, must spear head tree protection," he said.