Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, with about 397 inhabitants per square kilometer.
With an annual growth rate of 2.9 percent, the population of Rwanda was estimated at 9.2 million in 2006. The population is expected to grow to around 16 million by 2020 unless it is intensively controlled, according to statistics.
Rose Mukankomeje, the Director General of Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), explained to The New Times that population growth of a country like Rwanda, which has limited resources, especially land, has negative impacts on the environment.
“Rwanda’s economy and the livelihoods of her people are dependent on the natural resources. These natural resources, especially land, are increasingly under pressure from population pressure and unsustainable use,” Mukankomeje notes.
“This leads to environmental degradation and may jeopardize economic growth and efforts for poverty alleviation if nothing is done.”
Mukankomeje said that Rwanda experiences an imbalance between population growth and natural resources use because there are few off-farm activities carried out.
According to the director, the country has however put in place measures to contain population growth and minimize its effects on land.
“With regard to the construction of roads, strategic environmental assessments as well as environmental impact, assessments are undertaken prior to construction.
Appropriate mitigation measures and actions are prescribed in order to reverse the negative impacts from construction activities.”
She underscores that the current ‘degradation’ practices, like cultivation of rice in wetlands are undertaken after consideration of the type of wetland.
“Some of the swamps can be used with no conditions; others can be used under specific conditions while the rest are protected. The type of swamp is considered before any activity is carried out in the wetland,” Mukankomeje said.
Rwanda has also embarked on high-productivity policies like land consolidation, introduction of high value crops, and modernization of livestock, which have improved land productivity and are expected to tame population pressure on environment.