The government on Monday launched the national tree planting week with most trees being planted country-wide.
In Burera district, in the Northern Province, the exercise was launched by the Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi, with a call on Rwandans to actively participate in planting trees due to their various uses including being source of income.
“Trees should be planted in every area deemed fit, along the roads, along rivers, swamps and every district should have a plan on forest conservation by engaging residents to ensure the security of the trees planted,’’ he said.
The launch was held in the Ruhunde Sector during which about 4,800 trees were planted.
The minister warned residents on the dangers of illegal cutting of trees and early harvesting of forests.
He said that a special environmentalist shall be appointed in every district to monitor the programmes geared towards environmental protection.
Rwanda is said to be one of the countries with less forest cover, accounting for only 545,000 ha (20% of the land).
Of a total of 2,262,000 trees planted annually, 8,980,000m3 of forests are being consumed every year, while 6,718,000m3 is estimated to be destroyed, according to Ministry reports.
In order to restore forest cover, it was recommended that tree planting should not be limited to public land but also private land including bare hills.
At the launch, the area governor, Boniface Rucagu, implored residents to adopt community policing in conservation and environmental protection in order to reign in on those cutting trees illegally.
Rucagu also asked residents to plant more trees because of their many uses with more focus on agro forest trees.
It was also noted that there should be increased productivity from the forests by growing improved seedlings.
Meanwhile, in the Rwempasha Sector, Nyagatare district, residents together with members of the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF), in the area, planted trees on most bear hillsides during the launch.
About 16,000 trees were planted in various parts of the district.
The move is expected to increase forest cover in the district where trees were previously cleared for various human activities, posing a threat to soil conservation.
In Rwempasha alone, grasses have dried up and some parched sites can be spotted at various hillsides.
Residents, who participated in the Monday exercise, said it marked a new start and condemned those who failed to participate in the tree planting.
Officials who were present said the government efforts to prevent deforestation are still hindered by some people who ignore the numerous warnings.
Anthelm Rurangwa, the vice Mayor, in charge of economic affairs, said the district would enact a new law to ensure that millions of trees planted are not destroyed.
“The change of our environment necessitates us to change our perception of the tree planting. This is when we will be rest assured of rainfall,” he explained.
Families living on the hillsides which are considered barren are required to plant at least 30 trees in their plots in order to have full ownership over that land.
Rurangwa, warned that land allocation will be considered according to family needs and commitments to enable the planted trees survive, and generate substantial gains in future.
The first trees to be given priority are fast-growing species for firewood, and local woodlands and fruit trees, also expected to restore the productivity of the damaged landscape.
Rurangwa pointed out that the fast-growing trees will be selectively cut after few years while others will be left to fully mature before being harvested for various purposes.
Olive Muhongerwa, of the Ministry of Natural Resources, advised residents to plant tree species that can withstand harsh weather conditions.