Parliament recently passed laws dissolving Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA) and replacing it with three independent and specialised bodies focused on oil, gas, and minerals as well as land, water, and forestry.
RNRA was formed in 2010 following the merger of National Land Centre, National Forestry Authority, and Rwanda Geology and Mines Authority to streamline services.
However, many events had overtaken the agency and it was said to be no longer fit to deliver on new goals in way of maximising effort in exploration and exploitation of minerals, oil, and gas, as well as efficient management of land, water, and forests.
Briefing Parliament on the rationale of the changes, the Minister for Natural Resources, Dr Vincent Biruta, indicated that intended results under RNRA were not satisfactorily achieved.
Parliament agreed and Prime Ngabonziza’s nomination as director-general of Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority was endorsed.
In an interview, Ngabonziza said the new agency will entirely focus more on the management of the country’s water and forest resources.
Establishing the Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority implies a significant shift in the way of doing things, especially because water and forestry resources will now get the attention they deserve, according to Ngabonziza.
“Forestry is one of the biggest elements providing jobs, food, and income to people. Water and forestry are so wide and we can’t look at forests without minding water,” Ngabonziza told The New Times in a recent interview at his new office, days after he started work.
“The purpose of having Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority is to enable better management of water and forestry as natural resources.”
National Forestry Policy
What he is keen on now, he pointed out, is speeding up ongoing work to finalise a National Forestry Policy. A draft of the policy is ready for validation.
“Many things have been done. What we need to do is speed up the process. The National Forestry Policy contains strategic plans which will allow implementation of policies.”
Ngabonziza said the new agency will carry on from where the RNRA had reached; focus on public-private partnerships, and turn forestry into an income generation sector instead of merely being regarded as an energy source.
“We want to look at forestry as a business; an important income generator. My job is to deliver on the economic development and poverty reduction strategy targets.
“We also have a mandate to ensure that our soil is protected. And, we need to see our country shifting from thinking that forests are just sources of energy, and see at least only 50 per cent of the population use forests as source of energy.”
The National Forestry Policy, Ngabonziza said, will soon detail how the goals will be accomplished.
Public awareness, he says, will also be crucial as the population – for example – needs to embrace use of improved energy saving stoves.
Ngabonziza said they are developing a forest management plan that shows how the country can overcome issues in management of the woodlands.
Excessive and indiscriminate cutting of forests, uneven distribution of forest resources, insufficiency of data on the forestry sector, and relying on monoculture or the dominance of one species, especially of eucalyptus, were some of the constraints in the forestry sector listed in the 2010 National Forestry Policy.
Ngabonziza said the problem now is siltation (earthy matter, fine sand), or the like being carried by running water and deposited as sediment – and “what is needed is a catchment plan for the country.”
The catchment plan, a small segment of a wider plan, is set to be completed in March, he said.
“We are taking water as a priority. Before, it was taken as some kind of department in a bigger institution [RNRA] without the weight it should have been given,” he said.