Thirty million trees are due to be planted across the country on the National Tree Planting Day on November 29, officials at the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA) have said.
Forests cover 28.8 per cent of Rwanda’s surface with government aiming at a 30 per cent forest cover by 2017.
Search for domestic fuel is traditionally the main cause of deforestation in Rwanda with the overwhelming majority of Rwandans using firewood or charcoal, at 85 per cent, according to a recent study conducted by the RNRA.
Research carried out in eight districts across the country also indicates that use of traditional earth mound kiln is still dominant, at 86 per cent, although 70 per cent of people are aware of the improved kilns, called Casamance, which require less wood, officials say.
According to a recent survey on sustainable food and agriculture by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), forests provide 9.5 million cubic metres of timber and fuel wood everyday globally.
For Rwanda, the report indicated that with the 1990-1994 liberation war and Genocide and the aftermath, forests were severely degraded.
For instance, in 1995, the Gishwati forest had its 6,000 hectares transformed into pasture and arable land.
However, up to 2,000 hectares of the forest have since been reforested, while 500 hectares are expected to be reforested by 2017, according to Adrie Mukashema, the deputy director general of Rwanda Natural Resources Authority.
Soil erosion causes loss of 1.4 million tonnes of soil with up to 10 tonnes lost per hectare.
The report identifies agro forestry as an important mechanism that would have the benefit of bringing additional high value agricultural products to the small-holder farmers.
A 2010 report by RNRA indicates that 40 per cent of cultivated land in Rwanda is at risk of severe erosion while 90 per cent of crop land is on slopes of five to 55 per cent. It also states that erosion in the country increases markedly above 15 degrees with 25 degrees considered the steepest land that can be sustainably cultivated.
To address the consequences of deforestation, Rwanda has taken measures to ensure a properly balanced ecosystem.
Among the measures include a major reforestation drive and use of modern mound kilns that require less wood.
Faustin Munyazikwiye, the in-charge of climate change at Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema), said government, through National Appropriate Mitigation Plan (Nama), put in place policies aimed at reducing green house gas emissions and is working in partnership with charcoal producers, distributors and salesmen, among others, in the implementation process.
Munyazikwiye added that plans are underway to supply renewable energy to people.
Jean de Dieu Niyongabo, a resident of Kimihurura, Gasabo District, said most residents are aware of the importance of trees in environment conservation but cut them for firewood due to lack of alternative source of energy.
“Trees are important in rainfall formation and provide shelter …beyond that they provide us with fresh air which we breathe. But we cut them to get firewood because we have no other source of energy.”
The tree planting day will be marked under the theme “Enhancing climate resilience through agro forestry.”