The government has embarked on a campaign to privatise all the state-owned forests in a move it believes will boost proper management, use and productivity of the forests.
In an exclusive interview with The New Times on Monday, Prime Ngabonziza, the Director General of Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority (RWFA), said the move seeks to ensure that state-owned forests are given to private companies to manage, exploit and replant trees.
“We started privatising state-owned forests, our assessment revealed that forests can be well-managed and maintained if they are privatised,” he said.
“We sign an agreement with private companies to manage and exploit them for use in their respective activities, but they also have a responsibility to replant trees to avoid deforestation,” he added.
The biggest companies the Government had involved so far include tea factories, companies interested in wood and timber products such as New Forest Company that ventures into pylons production and other furniture, according to Ngabonziza.
Another company, Sawmill East Africa from Lituania, is investing in the production of high-quality wood for carpenters and construction companies.
He added that they were also dealing with other investors who have expressed interest in paper production, among others.
He said the programme to consolidate forests started in the districts of Rwamagana, Gakenke, Rulindo and Gicumbi.
“We want to ensure that the forests benefit owners than cutting them before they are mature, we hope that this can be possible if forest owners are in cooperatives,” he added.
He said that about 30 per cent is covered by forests and there is need to keep planting more trees in the country based on the areas such as in pastures, around the rivers and along the roads as well as agroforestry.
In the recent Interview The New Times, Agnis Magelinskas, the Managing Director of Sawmill East Africa, said that they have already established nurseries and planned to plant millions of trees.
“We believe that planting is very important for the new Rwandan generation to be able to enjoy plentiful and healthy forests, as well for the future wood industry, and we are determined to give our full attention to it,” he said.
He noted that as the first international firm in wood production in Rwanda, they are investing in innovative technologies such as wood drying kiln machines, natural chemicals for preservations among other things.
He added that they had already ordered for very modern machines designed and adapted specifically to Rwanda’s industrial needs and this region’s wood type, having invested into the main focal point–speed and quality.
“In the future, we are planning to continue investments into machinery, people training and modern technologies,” he said.
“We hope that privatising the forests will help us boost production, we are still importing most furniture and wood products and privatising forests will promote Made-in-Rwanda programme, add value to the forestry sector, promote exports and help reduce the country’s import bill on timber,” Ngabonziza added.
The government owns 27 per cent of the total forests equivalent to 65,000 hectares without considering national parks.
He added that forests were one of the income generating activities having generated Rwf67 billion in 2017.
It is estimated that the state-owned forests will generate over Rwf200 billion annually once all are privatised.
So far about 20 per cent of state-owned forests have been privatized, he said.
Forestry owners urged to join cooperatives
Ngabonziza said that forests including those owned by individuals are not well managed adding that the government intends to encourage them to join cooperatives and consolidate their forests together to attract private investors to privatise them.
Under forest management unit, Ngabonziza said forest owners can have forests of about 200 brought together to attract private investors and benefit to generate more income which can benefit members.