Green Drinks is a community of people interested in sustainability and environmental issues, who meet once a month for drinks and a conversation about a chosen topic of interest.
Green Drinks exists in more than 500 cities globally, including one of the greenest cities in the world: Kigali.
The Green Drinks Kigali community meets monthly at Impact Hub in Kiyovu. Starting from 7 pm, each event is structured around a chosen theme: people gather in an informal setting to listen to one or two speakers who introduce the topic, and to chat and network in front of a drink.
The most recent Green Drinks Kigali event focused on wetlands management in Rwanda - a critical resource for the county’s sustainable development.
According to Katharina Weber, Green Drinks Kigali Committee Member, the event seeks to involve and engage people from all backgrounds on the importance of environmental protection as well as creating awareness about climate change.
“Green Drinks events are simple and relaxed where people come together to network, interact with eco-friendly professionals, activists or novices in the field. We believe these conversations can inspire a generation of leaders mindful of the environment and inspired to fight climate change in Rwanda,” Weber said.
Green Drinks started in London in 1989 and has since spread across different cities around the world. The first event in Kigali was held about three years ago. Previous Green Drinks Kigali events have convened leaders from the private sector, NGOs, startups, government, and researchers among others.
During the most recent event, held last Tuesday, participants learnt about the importance of wetlands in Rwanda, what is being done to conserve them, and how they can be managed through best practice urban planning and architecture.
A study conducted by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) in 2008 indicated that 10% of Rwanda's land cover is comprised of marshes and wetlands - areas that perform the critical function of water filtration, as well as providing a valuable habitat for a diversity of aquatic, mammalian and bird species. Last year, Rwanda pushed forward with wetland protection to conserve this important natural resource.
One of the guest speakers, Remy Duhuze, Director of Environmental Regulation and Pollution Control at REMA, shared the current status of wetlands in Rwanda, the role they play in flood management as well as regulating local climates.
"Wetlands provide an unbelievable number of services for both nature and people, from food, fruits and grains to water storage and flood control. They even regulate climate and act as a carbon sink. We are now developing a Wetland Management Strategy to ensure the effective and efficient conservation and utilisation of Rwanda's wetlands," said Duhuze.
Speaking about the current government effort to protect wetlands in cities, Dukuze also mentioned that "wetlands in Kigali have a special protection afforded by the City of Kigali Master Plan that goes above what is provided for by the law."
Amani Rwibasira, an architecture student from the College of Science and Technology at the University of Rwanda, presented research he and his classmates conducted on the Gikondo wetland, and how it can be rehabilitated as a shared public space.
“We researched the structure and layout of the wetlands and developed design interventions that enable Kigali residents to utilise the wetland for recreation and leisure. It’s important to bring people and the environment together when designing public spaces,” Rwibasira said.
The next Green Drinks Kigali event takes place on Tuesday 13 March at Impact Hub and will be co-hosted with the University of Massachusetts Boston, which is on a study tour focused on environmental research.
The Dean and Associate Professor of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the university, David Cash, is expected to speak at the event on a number of sectors including water, energy, and food, and how they can be harnessed and developed in line with environmental protection.
Some of the upcoming topics include beekeeping and honey production, health and the environment, Akagera’s lions two years on, biodiversity hotspots, green buildings and design, the tea industry, smokeless Rwanda and green growth.