Rwanda: Govt on Course to Restore Two Million Hectares of Deforested Land

A reforestation project in Muhanga District.
1 September 2020

Through collective effort, using Rwanda's home-grown solutions, it is indeed possible to fully restore our forests

Rwanda is among the countries that, in September 2020, will showcase its progress on restoring two million hectares of deforested and degraded land in a global virtual conference.

The virtual meeting to gather countries globally is being organized by governments and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In 2011, Rwanda became one of the early adopters of the Bonn Challenge - 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.

So far, the recent assessment using the Bonn Challenge Barometer revealed that Rwanda has exceeded the forest cover target of 30 per cent. By this year, the country had achieved 30.4 per cent.

So far, according to official figures, Rwanda has already restored 708,629 of the pledged 2,000,000 hectares over the past ten years.

The country is also committing more investments to meet the 2030 target.

"Forest landscape restoration is a long-term process to gain ecological functionality of the landscape. Through collective effort, using Rwanda's home-grown solutions, it is indeed possible to fully restore our forests," stated Charles Karangwa, the Regional Technical Coordinator, Forests Landscapes and Livelihoods at IUCN Eastern and Southern Africa.

The FAO estimated that as much as 40 per cent of the cultivated land in Rwanda was at risk of severe erosion and required anti-erosion investments.

Over the past ten years, Rwanda quadrupled domestic investment in landscape restoration.

As of 2018, a combined domestic and international investment of U$6.7 million made nearly 35 per cent of the country's two-million-hectare restoration ambition a reality.

Forests now cover about 30.5 per cent of the land in Rwanda.

A breakdown of this cover shows that 48.4 per cent is plantations, 25.4 per cent wooded savannahs in the east, 17.5 per cent natural montane forests and 8 per cent shrub lands.

The 10 districts with the greatest forest cover are those with large areas of protected natural montane forest and woodland savannah.

Overall, reforestation and afforestation rates are estimated to be at 24 per cent of total forest cover with Rubavu, Rwamagana, Rutsiro, Ngoma, Nyabihu and Burera districts leading.

Although a deforestation rate of approximately 13 per cent was registered, predominantly in the eastern province districts such as Bugesera, Kayonza, Kirehe, and others, South province districts such as Nyanza, Ruhango and urban areas including Nyarugenge and Kicukiro, after restoration, the net balance actually shows an 11 per cent increase in forest cover over the decade.

From the eastern semi-dry areas near Akagera National Park to the western part of the country including Gishwati-Mukura National Park, 80 restoration projects (some projects span multiple districts) have been implemented nationwide since 2011, the Barometer shows.

With the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) set to begin, Rwanda's investment in the legal frameworks to implement sustainable natural resources management and commitment to restore two million hectares of deforested and degraded land are a clear model that will hopefully inspire others around the world.

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