Eastern Province wood processors seek upgrade, forestation

Phillip Muhire, Head of Umutara Carpentry and Joinery Cooperative (UCC), a cooperative of 202 war casualties in Nyagatare District. Courtesy

The wood processing industry in Eastern Province is in a more peculiar situation than any other area in the country as local harvestable forests become scarce plus the rising cost of timber.

Having no decent materials for wood processing increases the wastage of trees, and affects the quality and quantity of products, industrialists have argued.


Besides their efforts to reforest the province, the processors have stated their commitment to acquiring modern equipment, especially machines that manufacture the sawdust.


“We normally throw away the dust from the woods we saw, or give it to those who burn bricks, but we have learned that they can be used to make wood, which we could use again,” Phillip Muhire, head of Umutara Carpentry and Joinery Cooperative (UCC), a cooperative of 202 former soldiers in Nyagatare District, said.


“Transforming them into something can be good to the environment,” he added.

Muhire said the wood they use comes from other provinces, specifically Gicumbi District in the Northern Province.

“But we have put efforts in tree planting, the cooperative I represent really supports planting forests, we have planted trees on 1,217 hectares in Mimuri Sector, and we are also distributing fruit seedlings in Gatunda Sector,” explained the carpenter.

Janvier Ndayambaje, the chairman of a Union that includes carpenters, welders and masons in the Eastern Province, echoed: “We throw sawdust away, people use them for pig bedding, yet we order plywood from Europe, while the raw materials are right here at our workplaces.”

“Every day we have about 80 bags of sawdust at RwamaganaAgakiriro. If we cut 50 trees and manufacture them into chairs, the sawdust could be reprocessed into 30 pieces of wood, and this will reduce the number of forests cut down,” he explained.

“There is a forest problem in Rwanda, but we cannot stop our operations, we must harvest full-grown forests, and plant more, but more importantly, we have to avoid wasting sawdust, and that could save some trees,” he pointed out.

Janvier Ndayambaje, chairman of the Union of cooperatives carpenters, welders and masons in the Eastern Province. / Courtesy

The union is made of 11 cooperatives in woodworking across seven districts of the province.

Clarisse Mutesi, a resident of Rwamagana who is into the wood business and mostly sells eucalyptus, pines (or pinus), grevillea, Maesopsiseminii (locally known as Umuhumuro) wants a machine that does finishing work on wood.

”Buildings like hotels are made with small quantities of wood, but with much beautification, and that is where we are still behind,” she stated.

Clarisse Mutesi deals in timber business in Rwamagana district. / Courtesy

She wants decent machines that make Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF), and a sander that makes a wood smooth and shiny.

She also said that having products like toothpicks imported from China is “embarrassing” to the people in the wood industry, and they should do something about it.
Wood prices

According to Mutesi, the most expensive imported wood is Miliciaexcelsa, or “mvule” in Kiswahili, mostly from DR Congo, with a 4m length by 40cm width, piece of wood costing Rwf80,000.

The pine is the most expensive wood harvested in Rwanda, with 4m length, 15cm width and 10cm thickness going for Rwf9,000, and the costs vary depending on places it came from.

Eucalyptus varieties are the trees mostly available in the country.

“Here in Rwamagana, the wood we use mostly comes from Western and Southern Provinces,” she said.

Mutesi said that the transport of the wood is even more expensive than its actual cost.

“You can buy it for Rwf1,300 but the transport to Rwamagana costs Rwf1,500,” she explained.

Knowing the value of wood, Mutesi said they take seriously tree planting, and they are in a campaign to distribute seedlings and encourage homes to take up forestry farming.

Equipment opportunity

There is a chance that by next year, these processors will have acquired the equipment they want for their businesses.

Through the National Industrial Research Development Agency (NIRDA), the government seeks to help firms acquire, adapt and make better use of technologies such as equipment, tools, machines, software as a repayable facility at 0% interest rate, and without collateral.

The requirement of the ‘Open Calls Programme’ is having a registered company with at least 10 employees, and having been in business for at least four years.

In this phase of wood value chain, NIRDA has earmarked Rwf300 million for those who will be selected. At least 40 have thus far applied.


Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti, a Communication specialist at NIRDA, explained:

“Our key target is job creation, they show us the jobs that will be created, the number of people who will be employed by the company and how they will improve the quality of the locally made products.”

In the 7-year Government Programme (2017-2024), Rwanda targets to create 214,000 ‘decent and productive’ jobs annually.

According to the National Institute for Statistics (NISR), wood and paper printing contributed 4 percent to the manufacturing sector in 2018 while furniture contributed 6 percent.


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