While forests provide 86 per cent of energy source for domestic cooking purposes and for factories such as those that process tea, government is seeking alternatives that will push its agenda for more environmental friendly alternatives.
This was said by the Minister of Environment, Dr Vincent Biruta, during the launch of a Rwf3.5bn project aimed at boosting woodlot management and charcoal production in the Gishwati-Mukura landscape.
The project will be funded through a grant from the Nordic Development Fund and will cover districts of Rutsiro, Rubavu, Nyabihu and Ngororero, all in the Western Province.
Biruta told journalists after the ceremony that this was the right time for the local population to give thought to the advantages of adopting gas as opposed to charcoal and firewood.
"The fumes from the charcoal and firewood are definitely bad for your health. Besides that, people need to understand that gas is cheaper than those other options. As the population grows, so does their demand for charcoal and thus an increase in prices," he said.
Earlier, he had told those in attendance that the government was seeking ways to make gas an option that can be used by all the locals.
"While it is well known that firewood and charcoal are not the cheapest sources of basic energy for cooking, there were still obstacles and the main one is related to investment which is needed. I hope this project can come up with the financing mechanism that we can put in place to tackle that obstacle," he said.
How the money will be invested
According to the Director General of the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA); Coletha Ruhamya, there will be training in charcoal production that requires the use of less wood yet producing more.
"There is a way charcoal is manufactured. Not the way we are used to doing it which makes us use a lot of wood yet we are not getting a lot of charcoal in return. What that means is that we are losing out on our forests and those in the business are not making any money," she said.
Ruhamya also pointed out the value of investing in quality trees.
"We will also invest in good quality tree seeds. We no longer have good trees that are resistant to climate change. We are interested in going back to that and that's partly what this grant money will do," she explained.
The money will also go into researching on alternatives into what else can be used as a source of energy other than wood and charcoal.
The Country Program Manager of NDF, Martina Jagerhorn, pointed out that the interest was not only in improving technique but also marketing and distribution.
"There is seed, tree and charcoal production. It's not only the techniques that are being improved to increase productivity, it's also how the products are marketed and distributed. We try to use a holistic approach for the benefit of the low income persons in the region," she said.
At the moment, NDF has five projects in Rwanda with a total budget of a little over €13m.
The Director General of the Rwanda Water and Forestry Association (RWFA); Prime Ngabonziza pointed out that the government's seven year program is committed to reducing the dependence of the country's population on wood energy from 83 percent to 40 percent through using alternative source of energy.
"This project comes at a good time and is a great opportunity to support the country initiative and several commitments to sustainable development with a main focus on improved woodlot management, seed quality and efficient charcoal production in promotion of alternative energy," he said.
The NDF grant will be managed by the World Bank and will benefit the Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation (LAFREC) Project implemented by Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA).
The project will be complete in December 2019.