Exploitation of Nyungwe buffer zone forests to start

NEW FORESTS COMPANY (NFC) is set to start exploiting man-made forests around Nyungwe National Park to make timber products for the growing construction industry, officials have said.
An employee of the New Forests Company demonstrates how trees are harvested. The company will soon rollout activities in Nyungwe buffer forest zone.  The New Times/ Jean Pierre Bucyensenge.
An employee of the New Forests Company demonstrates how trees are harvested. The company will soon rollout activities in Nyungwe buffer forest zone. The New Times/ Jean Pierre Bucyensenge.

NEW FORESTS COMPANY (NFC) is set to start exploiting man-made forests around Nyungwe National Park to make timber products for the growing construction industry, officials have said.

The government leased 11,000 hectares of forest cover, planted in what is better known as Nyungwe buffer zone, to NFC for exploitation in a 2011 agreement.

The 49-year lease gives NFC the right to harvest tonnes of mature pine, cyprus, eucalyptus and acacia trees planted around the Nyungwe National Forest in the south-western part of the country.

The trees were mainly planted in the 1970s and 1980s to protect the park from encroachment.

Officials said the company will have to plant fresh trees after harvesting wood and timber.

Rwanda becomes the fourth country in Africa where NFC operates after Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania.

The exploitation will see the establishment of a series of processing plants to manufacture value-added wood products for the construction industry, electricity transmission poles and charcoal.

Preparations of a site to pave way for the construction of the wood plant is currently ongoing in Uwinkingi Sector, Nyamagabe District, while dozens of kilometres of unpaved road linking the site to the Huye-Rusizi highway to facilitate the transportation of the products is almost complete.

Dave Hardy, the NFC chief executive for Rwanda and Uganda, told The New Times on Monday that they will first establish a charcoal production unit in September and then erect a transmission pole treatment plant in October.

“From the first week of November there will be treated transmission poles that come out of this plant [while our] charcoal [will hit the market] during the first two weeks of September,” Hardy said.

Dried timber processing is expected to start in 2014, the official said.

Within this financial year, the company plans to invest about $8.5 million both in capital and operating expenditures, according to Hardy.

Benefits

The plant, the first of its kind in the country, is set to help reduce the amounts of imported wood products and, thus, help the country save the cost of importing the products, the Minister for Natural Resources Stanislas Kamanzi told this paper after touring the site on Monday.

Rwanda has been importing tonnes of electrical poles and several other wood products and the new plant is regarded as a solution to closing the existing gap between wood imports and exports, according to the minister.

Kamanzi said adding value to local products will increase revenue from the wood industry while at the same time create jobs for the population.

“This is a highly beneficial project both for the country and the population,” Kamanzi said.

Available figures show that more than 1,200 jobs will be created by the investment, while government is set to earn more than $1.2 million annually from the same.

And, besides the expected taxes and lease fees that government will get, the project is as well expected to boost infrastructure development in the area, facilitate exchange and transfer of knowledge and skills and help produce affordable but high-quality locally-made wood products.

“Within our plants elsewhere we try and set the highest level of quality and that will not be different here,” Hardy said. “The intent is to make prices locally competitive, which means prices should be cheaper than for imported products.”

 Francine Nyinawumuntu, a resident who now works with the company, said her life has been improving since she was given a job about six months ago.

“I can now meet my basic needs which I hardly managed to solve before I got this job,” she said.

Denis Bisetsa, 35, from Buruhukiro Sector, said: “We’re looking forward to a new life. Surely, we are set to benefit from this investment both in terms of money and knowledge.”

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