The Rwanda Forestry Authority has initiated a study to investigate the factors contributing to the withering of forests in Southern Province, specifically in the region referred to as Amayaga.
The trees being affected are the new Eucalyptus species that were planted under the Green Amayaga project.
The Green Amayaga project seeks to enhance the restoration of the degraded forests in the area, encompassing over 550 hectares or 0.14 per cent of Rwanda's overall natural forests, 10% of the cultivated forest, and several remnants of woodland.
The Amayaga region hosts the 354-hectare natural forest of Kibirizi-Muyira as well as the Busoga forest reserves.
However, the eucalyptus trees planted three years ago and newly planted ones, are withering due to a cause that is yet to be identified by scientists. The affected districts include Kamonyi, Ruhango, Nyanza and Gisagara.
"The forests in these regions were highly affected as the threat targets only one tree species. Therefore, we have taken samples to begin a thorough investigation to detect the kind of threat," Concorde Nsengumurenyi, the Director General of the Rwanda Forestry Authority (RFA) told The New Times.
One of the suspected causes, he predicted, is the lack of capacity to adapt to the region's climate.
"Previously the trees were affected by pests but this time we suspect issues of adaptability. Samples from leaves and soil have been taken. The research we are conducting will share the community with the exact causes of the damage," he said.
Residents from the Amayaga region said the new Eucalyptus species was growing quickly and bigger, promising profits in the shortest period.
"The trees that were affected are the newly introduced species. All farmers in my area with the same species were affected while previously existing species are safe. We do not know the kind of the disease because the trees wither starting from the leaves until the whole tree dries.
"We need to know if it is a disease, dry spells or pests so that we know the way forward by getting alternative seedlings to replace those affected," said Laurent Mutabazi, a resident of Ruhango District.
He said there is a need for research to assess if the new tree species have adaptability to the region's climate.
The affected forests and other interventions under the Green Amayaga project were expected to avoid 13 million tonnes of indirect greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 years.
Under the project, at least 4.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have to be avoided over the next five years.
The $32.7 million project was launched in 2020 and seeks to provide 60,000 households with improved and energy-efficient cooking stoves to reduce pressure to the forests.
The initiative seeks to promote biodiversity, foster ecosystem services, increase agricultural productivity, and reduce the vulnerability of people and ecosystems to the adverse effects of climate change.
Forests currently occupy 30.4 per cent equivalent to 724,662 hectares across the country. Of these, 53 per cent of the country's forests are plantations, 21 per cent are wooded savannas in the East, 19 per cent are natural mountain rainforests and 6.2 per cent are shrubs.
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.