Gov’t earmarks Rwf 1bn to reclaim Gishwati forest

Government has earmarked Rwf1bn to relocate 1,764 residents of Gishwati forest in a bid to reclaim the natural forest currently threatened with extinction as a result of encroachment.

Government has earmarked Rwf1bn to relocate 1,764 residents of Gishwati forest in a bid to reclaim the natural forest currently threatened with extinction as a result of encroachment.

Speaking to The New Times, Jean Claude Nyamarere a forestry official, said that they are faced with the problem of finding adequate land to relocate the big number of people.

He said the money will be used in the restoration of the forest for the next three years starting October this year.

He also revealed that since the beginning of the project, 1,683 hectares of the original forest have been replanted with trees.

Versite Buhigana, in-charge of soil conservation at Rwanda Agriculture Development Agency [RADA], revealed that the resettlement follows a classification exercise that was carried out and found that some of the dwellers were in high risk areas.

“We first carried out a survey and classified areas of high and low risk. Those in high risk areas are supposed to be transferred to other areas,” he said.

He said some of the high risk areas have steep slopes and the settlers around them are exposed to landslides.

Originally the second-largest indigenous forest in Rwanda - covering 100,000 hectares (equivalent to 30 sq kms), and extending to the districts of Ngororero, Rubavu, Rutsiro and Nyabihu in Western Province, Gishwati has been severely depleted.

Recently, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released satellite imagery indicating that nearly 99.4 percent of the forest has been completely wiped out.

Since 2005, government has been trying to recover some parts of the forest, but admits the current situation is worrying and has embarked on extensive recovery plans.

Gishwati was last year selected as site for a historic conservation project - Rwanda's first national conservation park to serve as an international model for biodiversity.

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