Government is set to start implementing a project which encourages farmers to plant trees on their farms as it steps up efforts to increase forest cover by 2 million hectares in the next one and half years.
The move is part of the €6 million project by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) which aims at promoting biodiversity through incorporating tree planting alongside crops on farmland in five countries including Rwanda, Peru, Uganda, Indonesia and Honduras.
"We all know that Rwanda is small and densely populated country, and that our growing population, expanding agriculture and infrastructure activities will put our forests at risk," the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land and Forestry, Jean-Claude Musabyimana, said.
He was speaking in Kigali on Tuesday during a stakeholders' meeting that discussed effective ways to implement the project where he said that the scheme will boost the country's ability to increase water for irrigation, hydropower generation for drinking.
Under the Bonn Challenge, Rwanda has pledged to restore two million hectares of land by 2020. The Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world's deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
"We need to put more efforts in increasing tree cover on our farms," Musabyimana said.
Research by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) shows that 45 per cent of farms worldwide already have more than 10 per cent tree cover.
In Rwanda, the percentage of farms with trees mixed with crops is estimated to 6.5 percent, according to Athanase Mukuralinda, ICRAF Country Representative.
"We want to increase that percentage to at least 80 per cent of the total farmland in Rwanda," he said adding that they will start engaging farmers and provide seeds.
The country has more than one million hectares with terraces, some of them with no tree cover, according to official data.
Rwanda targets to plant over 2.2 million fruit trees by 2024.
With the demand for mangos in Rwanda rising, there's an opportunity for farmers to increase their incomes by adopting agroforestry through planting fruit tree alongside crops.
Rwanda largely relies on imports from neoghbouring countries to cater for its high demand for mangos, according to Innocent Bisangwa, the Environment and Climate Change Specialist at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (Minagri).
Joseph Gafaranga, the Secretary-General of Imbaraga Farmers' Organisation said planting trees alongside crops, especially fruit trees would help to address the prevailing challenge of malnutrition and boost farmers' incomes.
However, he warned that planting trees alongside crops could also reduce crop production, because they would be competing for nutrients.