The New Forests Company (NFC), an international company based in the United Kingdom, on Tuesday, officially took over the responsibility of developing the Nyungwe Forest buffer zone, located in south eastern Rwanda.
The takeover agreement was signed by Stanslas Kamanzi, the Minister of Natural Resources, and the NFC Chief Executive Officer, Julian Ozanne at a function held at the ministry’s headquarters.
Also present was the Chief Operating Officer of Rwanda Development Board, Clare Akamanzi.
Nyungwe forest buffer zone is a man made forest that covers 11,000 hectares, the biggest in the country.
Speaking to the media shortly after the signing ceremony, Minister Kamanzi described the move as a great opportunity for the country to increase advocacy in the conservation of forests as well as provide employment opportunities to nationals.
“Assuming all activities are realised, this project alone will create more than 1,200 jobs over the next few years. This will benefit the country and the communities living around the forest,” he said.
“I pledge to support you technically for your activities to run smoothly; however, what we need is to implement the project as soon as possible.”
According to the agreement, the investor will not only harvest the forests; but will also be required to carry out re-forestation in the deforested areas to allow for continuity.
The company intends to construct a diverse and modern wood products plant around the forest as well as invest in a series of manufacturing industries to make products for the rapidly growing construction sector including construction lumber, doors, and windows and other furniture like school desks.
The NFC Boss acknowledged that if more agreements are reached, the company would also build a bio-energy power plant to generate electricity that would be fed to the national grid.
“If further agreements are reached with government, our company also hopes to generate woody bio-mass electricity for the national grid and other bio-energy products,” he said
“There is no reason why energy should be imported from Mombasa when Rwanda has forests here.”
If initiated, the plant would produce 25MW of power annually being the first of its kind on the continent.
According to Akamanzi, the investor anticipates to go into additional agreements with the government, saying that signifies the country’s conducive investment atmosphere.
“NFC hopes to enter into additional agreements with government and should all these be concluded, the company expects the total investment in the project to reach up to USD 60 million in the next few years”.
“This is clear indication that Rwanda is continuously being trusted by investors and we hope more of them can realise the country’s full potential,” she said.
The company is expected to begin operations by the October next year.
The UK based company has also invested in various countries including Uganda, South Africa, Mozambique, and Tanzania.
The species of trees in the Nyungwe buffer zone include Pine, Cyprus, Acacia and predominantly Eucalyptus