The Ministry of Lands and Forestry has announced plans to plant up to 225,440 fruit trees as part of broad efforts to fight malnutrition.
The plan, first announced during a recent cabinet meeting, includes planting agro-forestry trees on 38,119 hectares, classic trees on 4,800 hectares and restoring degraded forests on 670 hectares across the country.
Emmanuel Uwizeye, the Head of Forestry Unit at the ministry, told The New Times that over Rwf4 billion have been set aside for scaling up of tree planting across the country under the current fiscal year.
“Every district has allocated areas for tree planting but most of the trees will be planted in the districts of Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Rwamagana and Kayonza in Eastern Province, he said.
He added: “Fruit trees will be planted around mostly vulnerable households and schools.”
Members of the public, he said, will also be encouraged to plant fruit trees in their own land so they can improve on their families’ nutrition.
Each seedling goes for Rwf500.
The Governor of Eastern Province, Fred Mufulukye told The New Times that they have earmarked about Rwf2 billion to be used in planting different species of trees in areas that facing the threat of desertification.
He said the trees will be planted in various areas, including school compounds, along the main roads and streets, in farms and other public places.
According to Charles Karangwa, the Country Representative and Regional Forest Landscape Restoration Coordinator at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one the stakeholders in the government’s effort to scale up forest cover across the country, the campaign should strike a balance between classic trees, agroforestry and fruit trees.
“We still have a challenge of trees inherited from the colonial era that have been around for 100 years,” he said, adding that, “80 per cent of trees planted over the years in the country are eucalyptuss which consume a lot of nutrients impeding the growth of crops.”
He said that emphasis on agroforestry, fruit and traditional tree species will bribng about soil fertility, help fight malnutrition and increase forest cover.
This, he said, would reduce the import bill of fruits such as mangoes and tree tomatoes which play a key role in the fight against malnutrition, especially among children under five years of age.
As many as 38 per cent of children in Rwanda face malnutrition, according to official figures.
Eng Coletha Ruhamya, the Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), conservation of natural resources such as forests, water and land is key to the fight against hunger.
“The agriculture sector cannot move forward if the whole ecosystem is not preserved,” she said.
Without rainwater, forests and soil fertility, there will be no food, she added. “We need a comprehensive plan on tree growing. Fruit trees and agroforestry trees can be planted anywhere, including in the gardens and on the streets,” she said.