Environmental care will ensure sustainable development

Vision 2020 makes reference to both environmental and land use issues, emphasising proper use of the environment as a sure road to sustainable development.

Vision 2020 makes reference to both environmental and land use issues, emphasising proper use of the environment as a sure road to sustainable development.

A target is set to reduce the proportion of the population engaged in agriculture from 91 percent in 2000 to 50 percent in 2020, to protect the environment; this necessitates the rapid development of alternative livelihood opportunities.

Issues of environmental health, energy production, urbanisation, and industrial development are addressed in the new legislation.
The problems surrounding increasing population density and the environmental degradation are clearly flagged as a cross-cutting issue within Vision 2020.

Rwanda’s poverty reduction strategies make reference to environmental issues as a cross-cutting area for consideration, and also within the rural development and agricultural transformation pillar.

Many of the changes identified in the sector were earlier not given proper consideration by government planners but since 2002-2005 land and environmental reforms began taking shape.

A land policy framework was adopted, along with the law determining the use and management of land, environmental policy and the organic law on environment determining the modalities of protection, conservation and promotion of environment in Rwanda, establishment of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema), and the formulation of district performance targets for 2006 were also initiated.

The first generation poverty reduction strategic programme (PRSP) did not clearly define objectives, strategies and indicators for environment, and to a lesser extent land use management, against which performance could be assessed.

It is however, very obvious that from merely reading the Annual Progress Reports (APR) from 2003 -2005 that environment has received increased attention through the past four years. The 2005 APR was the first to have a dedicated section on environmental issues, with some identification of key environmental issues as they apply to the PRS sectors. The government targets to implement environment and land policies to promote sustainable development and a framework for inter-ministerial planning.

Land and environment issues have been accorded increasing importance in policy discussions in recent years. However, budget allocation for the sector has continued to fall short of achieving real progress. The environment sector budget was 0.06% in 2003 and increased to 0.15% in 2004 expressed as a percentage of the total national budget whereas land comprised 0.20% of the total budget in 2003 and dropped to 0.14% in 2004 by the same measure.

It is in the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) that the environment has been considered as an important sector for planning purposes. This is a significant step forward in ensuring the sustainability of Rwanda’s development, but at the same time this makes objective backward-looking assessments difficult. The very nature of the environment is such that its management cannot be planned in isolation from the planning processes in other sectors.

Health and education are two areas in which some developments with environmental implications have been observed, there has been necessity to develop an environmental health policy, accompanied by an environmental health law (ongoing, since Sept. 2005) and  the need to sensitise children on issues concerning ‘the environment’ in the 2006-2010 Education Sector Strategic Plan.

These, among others, should be considered further in the development of the EDPRS to ensure that issues of land use and the environment are treated in a comprehensive and holistic manner.
The creation of the environment as a sector points to progress that should further be highlighted.