Rwanda’s forest cover keeps growing


As The Land of a Thousand Hills prepares to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Rwanda Patriotic Front, the liberation force which eventually drove the notorious killer militias out of Rwanda and had the country rise like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes of the 1994 genocide, did news emerge that one of Rwanda’s ground breaking policies is bearing fruits. The small East African country had under past dictatorships allowed forests to be invaded, wide scale logging was tolerated to generate profits and easy cash for regime sycophants and it was not until the RPF took power that the trend was arrested and eventually reversed.

In 2006 a new national forest policy was developed, setting the country a goal to restore forest cover from then just about 20 percent to 30 percent by 2020. Major initiatives like making Nyungwe Forest a national park and evicting encroachers from Gishwati National Forest helped to get an ambitious re-forestation programme underway and the objective to eventually link Gishwati with Nyungwe is now thought quite possible by forest experts.

Gishwati’s own elevation to national park status is also progressing and numerous tree planting campaigns have since 2006 driven the forest cover up by well over 4 percent to now 24.5 percent.

The government’s deal entered earlier this year with the New Forests Company from the UK too has added extra initiatives as the company will use the Nyungwe buffer zones to plant commercial timber plantations, shielding the main forest from periodic tree poaching while allowing the country to develop a sustainable source of wood.

All in all good news and evidence that re-forestation can work when supported by government and people, as is the case in Rwanda. Congratulations to the RPF and as usual, watch this space.

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