The Government and World Bank yesterday signed a $9.5 million (about Rwf6.5 billion) funding deal for the conservation of Gishwati and Mukura forests in north-western part of the country.
The World Bank grant will help improve the environment, livelihoods and climate resilience, in addition to upgrading and restoring the forests, the Minister for Finance and Economic planning, Amb. Claver Gatete, said.
The grant is part of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), expected to increase the number and diversity of trees to help improve soil fertility, stabilise slopes, regulate stream flow and expand the resource base for local livelihoods.
“Gishwati and Mukura area lost most of its natural forest in recent decades, and has suffered from severe soil erosion, landslides and floods. But some patches of native forest remain, alongside important biodiversity, including a small population of chimpanzees,” Amb. Gatete said during the signing ceremony in Kigali.
“The money will therefore help support the project restore and preserve the forest.”
The project will help promote direct and indirect economic values to landscape management that go beyond agricultural output, and include tourism and protection of water resources for energy and water supply, Gatete added.
“We cannot achieve sustainable development at the expense of the environment.”
The objective of the Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation Project is to restore the degraded Gishwati-Mukura landscape, increasing tree cover, restoring indigenous woodland in deforested areas, enhancing the biodiversity of the remaining degraded forest reserves and providing global environmental benefits, Rwanda Environment Management Authority’s director-general Rose Mukankomeje said.
Dr Mukankomeje said Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation Project seeks to bring ecosystems into better management and develop multiple benefits through conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Overall, the project is expected to cost $12 million (about Rwf9 billion), with government contributing $2.6 million (about Rwf2 billion).
The five-year project will be implemented by Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (Rema).
The World Bank Group country manager, Carolyn Turk, said they are delighted to be contributing to the sustainable development of the country.
“The project will help those people living fragile physical environments, such as the area around Gishwati and Mukura and those still struggling with interlinked problems of water management, declining soil fertility and issues associated with diminishing biodiversity,” Turk said.
“The project will also provide integrated solutions to these challenges and help boost the livelihoods of some of the poorest households in the country.”
According to environmental experts, the project will positively impact the country’s tourism and agriculture sectors.
“It will greatly boost the Rwanda’s efforts toward promoting tourism but, most importantly, help promote green growth,” said Osborn Kinene, the Rwanda Ecotours country manager.
A team of consultants from Rema and World Bank have been working to help develop details of the project since 2013.