EDPRS: Walking the Talk : REMA vouches for resilience in environmental issues

Leads the way in creating a clean, healthy, green environment “The ultimate goal is to encourage behavioural change among the Rwandan Society towards livelihood activities that promote environmental sustainability and greening the economy for the benefit of present and future generations.” Dr Rose Mukankomeje, the Director General, REMA.

Leads the way in creating a clean, healthy, green environment

“The ultimate goal is to encourage behavioural change among the Rwandan Society towards livelihood activities that promote environmental sustainability and greening the economy for the benefit of present and future generations.” Dr Rose Mukankomeje, the Director General, REMA.

Environmental degradation and climate change have been recognized at the highest political level, as some of the main barriers to realizing Rwanda’s medium and long-term development aspirations enshrined in the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) and Vision 2020 respectively. This realization has been translated into a resolve of the Government of Rwanda (GoR) to effectively control pollution, conserve biodiversity, and restore productive ecosystems. This as well puts the environment sub-sector at the centre of the EDPRS, because a considerable proportion of the country’s economy (measured by growth domestic product/GDP) is derived directly and indirectly from environmental resources (about 36% from agriculture alone), and more than 80% of the population derive their livelihoods directly from nature.


In line with the Vision 2020, the National Environment Policy (MINITERE, 2003) is premised on the principles of sustainable growth; participation; decentralization; intergenerational equity and fairness; emphasis on prevention; polluter pays; recognition of regional and international environmental inter-connectedness.  The Environment policy is clearly defined and tackles main environmental issues in support of rational use of natural resources for sustainable development and poverty reduction.


The overall objective of the sub sector strategy is that all development   in Rwanda is undertaken in a manner that inflicts minimal damage to the environment, and all degraded ecosystems are restored and conserved for the sustained support to economic, social and cultural development of Rwanda.

Efforts to align SSP and DDPs priorities were undertaken through capacity building on mainstreaming and a network of planners meetings were a channel for aligning annual planning at central and decentralized levels.

Gender and social inclusion issues have been taken into account especially through project support to subsector programmes implementation

Key achievements during the EDPRS implementation

In accordance with a Common performance Framework indicator, it is planned to increase the proportion of protected areas for biodiversity preservation from 8% to 10% in 2012. Percentage increase in Protected Areas is currently on track covering 10.13 % of the total national territory.

Achievements in regard to EDPRS environmental programmes
In Establishment of an effective, legal, regulatory, policy and institutional framework for environmental management :
•    Public awareness and broad national senzitization for environmental management, implementation of environmental laws through inspection, EIA review and approval for development projects and capacity building for central, local government institutions and to civil society and CBOs
•    Interns were recruited to support Ministries/sectors including MINAGRI, MININFRA, MINECOFIN, MINICOM, MINIRENA, MINALOC to integrate national    environmental priorities and commitments into sector planning, budgeting and implementation
•    Environmental education and education for Sustainable development training have been delivered to the decentralized institutions; environmental clubs have been set up in primary and secondary schools (70%).
•     The strategy to implement Environmental Education for Sustainable Development (ESSD) has been developed and guidelines on how ESSD can be infused in school curriculum developed;
•    Guidelines on greening schools developed: are being trained and supported on sustainable development through greening their schools
•    Awareness material and training modules were developed and disseminated

In Sustainable management of ecosystems for income generation,
•    Studies have been conducted for the rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems such as Gishwati, Sebeya river, Rugezi, Kamiranzovu, Akagera, Rweru – Mugesera wetlands, Lakes Kivu and Muhazi and rehabilitation activities in these fragile ecosystems are underway to restore ecosystem function
•    Protected areas management and conservation have been supported to realize tourism potential and economic value that contributes to national development
•    Biodiversity and wildlife policies recently formulated create opportunities for boosting tourism with increasing potential to contribute to economic growth.

In Pollution management


•    Reduction of point source pollution by banning of plastic bags, ozone depleting substances, and other persistent organic pollutants and enforcement measures
•    Measurable progress including EIA review and approval process have been registered (208 projects with EIA certificate) and improved the business and investment climate
•    Tools  including sector specific EIA guidelines in addition to the general guidelines geared to improve the overall conduct of EIA across public and private sectors are accessible.
•    Supported the establishment  of the Rwanda Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production (RECP)

Mainstreaming Environment and Climate Change


•    Check-lists and indicators to integrate environment in sectoral and district plans were prepared and are accessible
•    Sector and Districts technical staff and NGOs have been trained in environmental integration and reporting in addition to other training packages in environmental management such as data collection, management and reporting at local levels
•    Technical support  provided to other sector policy and strategy formulation such as the development for the biomass energy strategy, the habitat strategy and the agriculture sector strategic plan (PSTA II). Guidelines for Strategic Environmental Assessment developed and training on those guidelines provided
•    Support to MINECOFIN resulted in issuance of a the Call Budget Circular including an annex on integrating environment in the 2011/2012 budget cycle for 3 pilot sectors including Agriculture, Energy and Trade and Industry
In regards with above achievements, two main challenges have been faced:
•    Weak system of data collection in the environment and natural resources and
•    Low level of awareness and appreciation of environmental issues, especially among business sector and local government structures which increases the cost of enforcement and monitoring.

Management and Resources

Coordination between central and decentralized entities for programme implementation has been of focus for the Environment and Climate Change Sub Sector through project support approach. However the main challenge is articulation between central and decentralised levels is still low:
•    Environmental issues were not given much attention at District level;
•    District environmental officers often times working outside their professional attribution. They are misused by the District.
Lessons learnt

Enforcement of law, respect of procedures and relevant standards which are necessary but should be accompanied by efforts to achieve an environmentally responsible management of resources and a corresponding commitment of District authorities


•    Empowering Envionmental officers by highly qualified training ; 
•    Develop the leadership in environmental issues through Mayor’s commitment
•    The Environment committee should be a central institution for discussion but also the JADF and its commissions should be used as a dialogue platform between Districts, Local organisations and international partners on environmental issues
•    With the support of  REMA, Districts have to undertake inventory for all Districs of their specific and priority environmental issues.

MINECOFIN support to the planning and budgeting process through trainings, technical advice was regular and very key to implementation of EDPRS subsector programmes. However, more joint trainings for planners and budget officers need to be conducted in order to effectively and efficiently link planning and budgeting processes.


Financial resources and budget execution

Donors support in environment and Climate Change sub sector is aligned with the strategic plan. This is through financing projects operating under Environment and Climate Change sub sector, support to NGOs and civil Society Organization. SIDA as lead donor has made tremendous contribution for mobilizing the support and participation of other multilateral and bilateral development partners to provide funds channels it into the Environment and Climate Change Basket fund.

Environment and Climate Change Sub sector budget execution rate was 78% in 2008, 95% for 2009 mini budget, 77% for 2009/2010 and 84% in 2010/2011.

Main challenge

•    Despite modest increases in budget allocations and donor support, the environment sub-sector remains grossly under-funded. This has limited prospects of long-term investments in both physical ecosystems protection and institutional capacity development.
•    Some programs with development partners have problems with timely disbursement and financial management.
•    Procurement process/procedures not well mastered by all staff involved

Human resources

Main challenge
High turnover of staff and organizational restructuring has had impact on efficacy of investments in training and institutional systems development and performance of the Sub sector especially at District level (see challenges and recommendations above).


Capacity Building Secretariat has to provide a high quality on job training and Government should establish a policy onincentives for good performance especially of District Environment Officers


The implementation of the Environment and Climate Change Strategic Plan extends requires broader partnership and institutional responsibility than REMA.  Such national mandate for shared responsibility of mainstreaming environment requires that other institutions contribute to sustainable financing for environment. Sector Wide Approach (SWAP) for ENR provides an opportunity to realize this requirement on the part of other national institutions.

The sector wide approach was used to support the development of Environment and Climate change Strategic Plan and the joint sector reviews. The latter were conducted on 6 months basis. Since 2008 up to 2011, 5 joints sectors reviews meetings were held.

As part of stakeholder engagement, the sub sector has worked closely with key ministries namely: MINECOFIN, MINALOC, MINAGRI, MINICOM, MINIRENA, MINEDUC and MININFRA. This engagement should be extended to other sectors especially the social sectors.

The Environment Thematic Working Group (ETWG) and the ENR SWG have already registered a high turn-up and interest from stakeholders. However during the implementation of EDPRS, key challenges faced in partnership are:

•    Ownership and understanding of the sub sector policies, strategies and priorities has been partial.
•    Conflict of priorities,  poor linkages in sector strategies and limited commitment to sustainable development
•    Weak capacity
Lessons learnt
•    Full consultation, participation and commitment of stakeholders is necessary
•    There is a need for awareness raising
•    Partnership mapping and knowledge sharing are crucial
•    Coordination of Civil society and private sector  is important for improved impact
•    Engagement of institutions of higher learning and research institutions.


Environment sub sector contributes to two themes:  Growth, Rural and Human Development and Governance:
•    Through its programme of ecosystem rehabilitation for income generation, it has led to the boosting of the water levels which has enhanced the Energy generation-which is a key infrastructure/catalyst for private sector business growth and job creation
•    Environmental regulations have encouraged innovative and entrepreneurship eg water harvesting, handcraft and recycling
•    Contribution to VUP Umurenge, where integrated environmental management has been demonstrated as key for improved livelihoods and development (Rubaya demonstration project where local communities were fully involved and benefited)
•    The support to conservation has contributed to the increase of revenues from the tourism sector which has consistently grown over time in its contribution to GDP.
•    Application of environmental regulations and standards e.g. Strategic Environmental Assessment and Environmental impact assessment, support to resettlement of vulnerable people relocated from fragile area have contributed to conflict resolution, peace building and security- components of good governance

Many NGOs and Development partners were partnered in the three themes. Rwanda Environment  Non Governmental Organization Forum(RENGOF), World Vision, WCS, Care international, DFID, UNHABITAT, Global Environment Facility (GEF), World Bank, UNEP, UNDP, SIDA, Japanese Government, Local Government trough Cooperatives of Youth and other cooperatives are engaged in ecosystem rehabilitation, Public awareness and Adaptation to Climate change.

The main challenges were the full involvement and ownership of decentralized entities and low capacity of CBO, CSOs and private sectors in environmental management as implementing partners and this will be overcome by strengthening environmental coordination across sectors to ensure all public and private projects pass through impact assessment exercise to ensure effectiveness and maximum realization of environmental outputs (MINECOFIN, REMA and other implementing sectors)

Another key challenge is the limitations in technical as well as limited human capacity of productive sectors, which mainly rely on exploitation of environment and natural resources, to mainstream environmental sustainability principles in their programmes.

Key Lessons Learned

During the EDPRS implementation a number of lessons have been learnt:

1. Project- based financing
can help achieve quick wins in restoring degraded ecosystems, in demonstrating benefits from good integrated environmental management practices, and in installing short-term capacity. However, the project outputs must be consolidated to serve as inputs towards programmes in order to ensure long term sustainability.

2. Institutional collaboration is critical to achieving results, even with limited capacity and resources: Effective enforcement of the environmental policy and law (at least with regard to use of polythene materials, EIA compliance, tree planting, pollution, etc.),

3. Environment and development are inextricably inter-linked. They should not conflict but be mutually reinforcing. Environmental institutions ought to be perceived in positive light – as facilitators rather than detractors of development. Thus, environment mainstreaming should be seen by other sectors as a mechanism through which sectors gain from environmental benefits towards sustainable sector performance and productivity.

4. The internship experiment with sectors has demonstrated that sectors can benefit from appointing environmental officers in charge of environment mainstreaming particularly in identification of environmental priorities that enhance sector productivity.

5. Public environmental expenditure reviews
for other sectors have demonstrated the need for sector to set aside budgets if they must reap significant benefits from environmental mainstreaming.

6. Partnerships are critical to ensuring that environmental mainstreaming is understood and that the knowledge is translated into action.

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