A consortium of organisations has embarked on a new national agro-forestry strategy to boost agro-forestry economic and environmental benefits in the country through improved coordination.
The organisations are Rwanda Water and Forestry Management Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and World Agro-Forestry Centre.
Agro-forestry means integrating trees on farms in agriculture landscape.
Unveiling the strategy at a consultative meeting in Kigali yesterday, Prime Ngabonziza, the director-general of Rwanda Water and Forestry Management Authority, said the 10-year strategy will help increase forest cover.
“There have been practices of agro-forestry in the country but the new strategy aims to strengthen synergy, improve coordination among concerned institutions, invest in research and new species, then put efforts in scaling up and adopting agro-forestry in the community by providing trees with utility to farmers,” he said.
The measures are in line with Plan for Agriculture Transformation in Rwanda (PSTA 4), running through 2023, according to Ngabonziza.
He said agro-forestry in Rwanda is 2 per cent of 29 per cent of forest coverage.
The economic importance of agro-forestry include increasing soil fertility, supply food (fruits), animal feeds, energy from wood, timber for construction and furniture, electric poles, beekeeping and increasing resilience to climate change by resisting drought, erosion, among others.
Ngabonziza said the strategy would also help Rwanda meet the forest restoration of two million hectares of land cover by 2020, as part of the Bonn Challenge targeting to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
He said one of the areas with less forest cover in the country is Eastern Province that will be given special attention under the strategy.
“Agro-forestry and forestry in general is even less than 2 per cent of needed forests in Eastern Province compared to other areas. For example, there are over 10,000 hectares of livestock pastures that need agro-forestry and trees as fence,” he said.
Researchers count yields
Anastase Mukurarinda, a researcher with World Agro-forestry Centre (ICRAF), said agro-forestry improves crop yields, citing a recent survey conducted in Rulindo, Musanze, and Rubavu districts.
“We found that doing terraces without agro-forestry affects crop yields. Use of progressive terraces with agro-forestry reduced soil erosion by between 60 per cent and 80 per cent. Beans yields increased by up to 32 per cent while Irish potatoes increased up to 57 per cent in Western Province,” he said.
He called for mobilisation of funds for the strategy implementation, investing in research, extension, propagating the methods and introducing indigenous and exotic species while practicing progressive terraces.
Dr Otto Muhinda, assistant representative of FAO in Rwanda, said: “The strategy should trigger transformation and introduction of new ways of scaling up agro-forestry which they could finance.
“We have been financing a $740,000 land and forest restoration project in Rwanda that will end by 2019. The strategy will help us design related projects.”
He said FAO has spent about $31 million on agriculture and environmental projects in Rwanda in the past five years, and that much more would be invested in the next few years, with at least $1 million toward financing agro-forestry.
Dr Muhinda said the strategy is in line with Vision 2050 considering that agriculture land is becoming smaller while inorganic fertilisers are shrinking as well.
According to Innocent Bisangwa, the environment and climate change specialist at the Ministry of Agriculture, Farmer Field Schools and agriculture extension model (Twigire Muhinzi) will be used as approaches to adopt and scale up agro-forestry so that it improves crop yields.