The Government will remain committed to the protection, conservation, restoration and extension of forests in the country, though communities have a bigger role to play in conserving the nation’s forests and ecosystems.
This was said by the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi, at the opening of the one-day Kwita Izina Conservation Conference which took place yesterday.
Addressing conservationists and environmentalists from the region and beyond, Kamanzi said that the government is aware that conserving and protecting the environment remains the only way to achieve sustainable development.
“One of the medium term among the government’s ambitious plans is an initiative collaboratively undertaken with some of our partners to restore lost forest lands and degraded forest landscapes,” he said.
“This effort is meant to address ecosystem degradation and to trigger positive impacts on the livelihoods of the rural communities by boosting their productive potential”.
This year’s conference was held under the theme ‘Forest stewardship by community; contributions, benefits and prospects’.
2011 was declared the International Year of Forests.
According to the Director of Tourism at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Rica Rwigamba, awareness has been created among communities neighbouring national parks to ensure that the surrounding community is an integral part of the conservation process.
She noted that Kwita Izina is a platform to reach out to communities to make them understand the need to conserve the environment, in line with the theme, “Community development for sustained conservation”
Rwigamba said that most of the communities living around the parks are some of the poorest, hence the importance of empowering them, to be part of the conservation plans. She observed that RDB’s awareness efforts have since paid off with former poachers, today, converted into farmers and environmentalists.
Rwigamba said that ahead of the Kwita Izina Ceremony slated for Saturday, community development projects will be launched tomorrow in recognition of conservation efforts of the communities living around the parks.
A total of 52 water tanks will be commissioned as well as a Bamboo conservation project and a cultural centre.
On Friday, a community party “Igitaramo” will be held.
22 Baby Gorillas will be named on Saturday, and according to Rwigamba, this year’s ceremony will focus mainly on conservationists and local communities rather than big name celebrities.