Land users dedicated in conserving natural resources will be offered incentives as experts devise the introduction of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), an official from Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority has said.
PES is an approach where incentives are offered to farmers or landowners in exchange for managing their land to sustainably conserve natural resources.
The environmentalists said that farmers will be offered incentives or compensation fees if they have a forest and commit to protect it from cutting because of its role in protecting rivers catchments and environment in general.
Francois Tetero, the Head of Water Resource Management Department at Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority, said the experts are mulling over the approach of four catchments of Nyabarongo, Nyabugogo, Sebeya and Muvumba rivers where human activities have triggered deforestation, poor agricultural activities that cause soil erosion which pollute rivers.
“We are looking into how the system can be introduced in Rwanda if we need sustainable protection of natural resources. We are thinking that if a farmer replaces their crops with reforestation, we will compensate them for that commitment and the forest still remains their own property. This gives them double benefits besides environmental protection. That is the standard formula we seek to use,” he said.
He said that other forms of incentives will include continued support to farmers with establishing terraces free of charge on their farms, planting agro-forestry trees, fruitful forests among other alternatives.
We are also designing a six-year plan to continue rehabilitating the catchments as part of integrated water resources management approach,” he noted.
Tetero said the program with a basket fund of 18 million Euros (Rwf20 billion) started from 2016 to last until 2020 will identify cases of payments for ecosystem services (PES) mechanisms around clean water in the Rivers under the project.
The investment funding is helping to develop climate resilient initiatives on rivers catchments, help farmers and investors increase returns by improving farming methods, terracing, agroforestry, and afforestation.
They also include flood control through rainwater harvesting, road drainage, relocation of households to IDP model villages, promotion of improved cook stoves, biogas so as to manage forest plantations.
Tetero says solid and waste water treatment and sustainable are also needed to avoid polluting the rivers.
Enhancing the benefits from rivers
According to Tetero, degrading the catchments, poor mining techniques would affect hydropower production, loss of fertile soils as well as affect irrigation efforts for the community.
For instance, the degradation on upper Nyabarongon river catchment could impact Nyabarongo hydropower plant contributing more than 28MW of electricity to the national grid.
He said that the multi-purpose dam will also be established at Muvumba River adding that catchment rehabilitation and contribution of land owners to sustain them is needed to ensure there will be enough water for the dam for hydropower, irrigation and other uses.
Mark Hajabakiga, an 83 year-old resident of Mushishiro sector in Muhanga district says illegal mining activities is one of the factors that causes dirty water in Nyabarongo River while erosion is also caused by deforestation as people cut trees for firewood, charcoal and wood furniture at a large scale.
“If I am provided biogas, modern improved cooking stoves as incentives then I can stop cutting trees. For me, such kind of incentives will help,” he said.
About 921 of 1121 hectares at Nyabarongo catchment have so far been covered by progressive, bench, narrow cut terraces, Agroforestry, afforestation.
Godefroid Maniraro, another resident added that such terraces will compensate since their soil is always washed away by erosion and that it was infertile but productivity has increased.
“There was little farming activity due to erosion. We used to grow bananas that are not productive, no beans could grow but we are getting good harvests. We ensure to sustain these terraces and agro-forestry,” he added.