A new report detailing information on land use in Rwanda was launched yesterday in Kigali.
Dubbed Natural Capital Accounts (NCA), the report facilitates analysis of trends and trade-offs in the use of the country's land, water, minerals and ecosystem assets.
Speaking at the launch, the Minister for Environment, Dr Vincent Biruta, said achieving national economic growth goals will require wise use of national resources enabled by evidence based policy making.
Rwanda's use of Natural Capital Account tool is expected to improve measurement and integration of natural resource wealth and assets into the country's national development planning process.
Land accounts provide indicators and trend analysis to track targets for sustainability, land allocation, service delivery, and productivity.
Policy-makers and other people can use information provided to clarify and compare economic values generated by land in competing uses and how changes in land use may affect land asset value.
Traditionally, the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was measured without considering the contribution of natural resources and officials said there is need to also capture and integrate this aspect.
The report provides land use and cover information that can inform land-use planning from local to the national level. Land use and cover accounts can also inform Rwanda's efforts to build climate resilience, reduce deforestation, and increase forest cover.
Biruta said land accounts would support Rwanda's development planning by providing indicators and trend analysis to track performance targets for sustainability, land allocation, service delivery, and productivity.
"The land accounts provide a base of information, similar to the national economic accounts that can be used to clarify and compare trends in use, productivity and value of land in competing economic uses over time and place," he said.
"When integrated with other sectoral data, land accounts can also provide information about potential effects on water use and food production," he added.
The report provides an analysis of Rwanda's land assets, changes in land use, changes in land cover and information on land transaction values.
"Natural Capital Accounting is a tool that can inform our national development planning process and tracking indicators of progress toward sustainability. The approach helps to integrate natural resources into economic analysis and can provide a broader picture of development progress and the real wealth of our country," Biruta said.
Information from the Ministry of Environment indicates that 53 per cent of the total country area is agricultural land, 5.8 per cent land for livestock, while 3.5 per cent is wetlands. Six per cent of the area is water bodies, 13 per cent shrub lands while 1.4 per cent of land is for settlement.
According to Jean Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Lands and Forestry, for natural capital to play a role in GDP there is need for continuous documentation, data access, and technical and analytical capabilities to build a consistent and useful tool.
"We know that in the next step we will need to deepen analysis and interlink data from different sources," he added.
Claudine Uwera, a lecturer at the University of Rwanda, said there is need to capture the country's resources in determining its GDP.
"The current situation shows that there is global warming, water over extended, fishery is depreciating yet the rate of that depletion is not well captured. There is need for measurement that goes beyond GDP as a measure of the total wealth of the nation," she said.
The Government has given priority to three areas in natural capital accounts namely land, water and minerals.