HUYE — The rate of forest depletion in Rwanda between 1998 and 2007stood at 9.6 percent, a study conducted by the Centre for Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing of the National University of Rwanda (CGIS-NUR) has revealed.
A Country Forest Mapping report released on Thursday July 17, in Huye district shows that Giswati and Mukura natural forest reserves are worst hit by deforestation.
The report which was commissioned by the Ministry of Natural Resources, is aimed at mapping of forest resources in Rwanda in order to support the elaboration of the National Forest Action Plan.
The research team was also tasked with mapping of forest/woodland location, area of at least 0.5ha, main species using existing maps, aerial photography, satellite imagery and field data collection among others.
Field visits were made in Nyungwe forest, Giswati, Akagera and along roads.
According to the results of the study presented before the Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi; the districts of Gichumbi, Rulindo, Gakenke, Muhanga, Rusizi and Burera were highlighted as needing urgent intervention to restore forest cover.
They were cited as the districts with high percentage of non forested areas.
The CGIS-NUR research team was led by Dr Michele Schilling. The team worked in close collaboration with the Agronomic Research Institute of Rwanda and the International Institute for Geo-Information and Earth Observation in the Netherlands.
Addressing environmental officers drawn from across the country, minister Kamanzi decried the continued degradation of forest resources in the country.
“The country is losing vital forest resources to uncontrolled exploitation and worst of all concerned authorities do not seem to be bothered,” he said.
Minister Kamanzi called upon district environment officials to speed up programmes for planting trees so as to meet the 30 percent increase in forest resources targeted in the country’s Vision 2020.
Degradation and regression of forest resources in Rwanda was attributed to overexploitation of forests, poor management of existing resources and lack of knowledge on available resources.
Forests are a key element in the regulation of the climate and the river systems, in the prevention of soil erosion and the reduction of the atmospheric pollution.
They play an essential role in global carbon and hydrological cycles. Forests are also considered as a vital source of capital.
Researchers recommend for the development of a GIS based Forest Information System. They also recommend for the development of agro-forestry application and capacity building in the usage of GIS tools.
Forests have a national coverage of 10.10 percent of physical area.