Rwanda has launched an ambitious Rwf31.9 billion landscape restoration project that seeks to restore the natural forests of Amayaga in Rwanda’s Southern Province and benefit 1.3 million Rwandans. The Green Amayaga Project was launched on Friday, October 23, 2020 in Nyanza District and coincided with the national event to launch the annual forest planting season in Rwanda. Over the next six years, the multi-billion initiative will promote biodiversity, foster ecosystem services, increase agricultural productivity and reduce the vulnerability of people and ecosystems to the adverse effects of climate change. The project is funded by the government of Rwanda at 77 per cent through the Ministry of Environment while the rest consists of grants from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It will be implemented by Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) in partnership with the Rwanda Forestry Authority (RFA) and the districts of Kamonyi, Ruhango, Nyanza and Gisagara. According to environment minister Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, the “ground-breaking” initiative offers natural solutions to climate change. The official emphasized that Mother Nature “is our best ally” in tackling global warming. Over the next five years, a projected 4.7 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be avoided. The projection reaches 13 million tons in the next 20 years. More than a climate action Mujawamariya noted that the project has potential beyond climate resilience. “Restoring forests and landscapes will not only benefit our environment, but also improve the health and livelihoods of Rwandans and create green jobs,” Mujawamariya said. Up to 1.3 million people from Gisagara, Nyanza, Kamonyi, and Ruhango districts are targeted beneficiaries. More than 360,000 will directly benefit from the project of whom 51 per cent will be women and young people. Over the project period, about 150,000 green jobs will be created. Up to 67,500 households will be provided with modern cooking stoves and livestock to improve food security and increase incomes. With around 70 percent of Rwandans working in the farms, the Green Amayaga project is also a tool to boost agriculture. It will rehabilitate nearly 280,000 hectares of farmland and agroforest to increase productivity. CEO and Chairperson of the GEF, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez said the project helps in securing the unique biodiversity of the country and strengthening communities. “Investing in nature restoration is critical to addressing climate change and supporting sustainable development as we all work to manage the impacts of Covid-19,” he added. Yet another multi-billion climate initiative Rwanda has in recent years made heavy investments in climate resilience. The Amayaga initiative adds to an 11-billion-dollar climate action plan recently unveiled by the government. At least ten projects worth hundreds of billions of Rwandan francs are being implemented across the country, mainly complementing the Paris agreement that Rwanda signed in 2015. “The Amayaga project is yet another example of the government and people of Rwanda’s remarkable levels of preparedness and creativity,” commented Maxwell Gomera, UNDP Resident Representative. “Restoring biodiversity and landscapes is not just good sense in these extraordinary times, it is imperative. When biodiversity thrives, we all thrive. We have an incredible opportunity to build better economies and stronger societies,” Gomera added. The Amayaga region covers large patches of natural and planted forests and more remnant forests. In the next foresting season alone, at least 1.4 million trees will be planted through the project. In addition to forestation, the project will bring about erosion control and protection of marshlands and their buffer zones. Small and large watersheds will also be rehabilitated and restored to provide water for human consumption as well as livestock and agriculture activities.