Gaspard Gasangwa 72 was born and raised in Kamonyi district, one of the four districts of Amayaga region situated in the Southern Province of Rwanda. His family depends on subsistence farming, growing mainly beans, cassava, maize, sorghum and sweet potatoes. He is concerned about the consequences of climate change that the region has been experiencing due to the degradation and destruction of ecosystem.
“We are experiencing a significant reduction in precipitations, which also has negatively affected our agricultural productivity and health,” said Gasangwa.
Amayaga region is composed of four districts, including Kamonyi, Ruhango, Nyanza and Gisagara. Residents of these districts state that their region covered large patches of natural and planted forests rich in plants and home to a variety of animal and bird species. These forests harbour carbon stocks and provide critical watershed services to the agricultural landscapes surrounding them. Today, a big part the forests has almost disappeared. The remnant are natural and scattered indigenous forests covering 555ha.
Agricultural expansion and overharvesting of the forests have been among the major causes of this environmental crisis. In addition, the lack of adequate mechanisms and financial capacity to restore and protect biodiversity in Amayaga exacerbated the situation.
The degradation of biodiversity in this region has brought many consequences, including soil erosion and land degradation which resulted in decreased agricultural productivity, endangerment or disappearance of some fauna and flora species.
The alarming level of threat to biodiversity and to the Amayaga region inhabitants prompted the Government of Rwanda to work with partners to adopt stringent mechanisms, including the establishment of an ambitious initiative aiming at restoring forest landscape of Amayaga region and improve the livelihood of its inhabitants and create green jobs.
Green Amayaga initiative
The Green Amayaga or Forest Landscape Restoration in the Amayaga region, is a six-year initiative that seeks to promote biodiversity, foster ecosystem services, increase agricultural productivity and reduce the vulnerability of people and ecosystem to the adverse effects of climate change.
The US $32.7m (RWF 31.9b) ambitious project was designed by UNDP in partnership with Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and with financial support from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) with the aim of contributing to the implementation of the National Strategy for Transformation (NST-1) and the Nationally Determined contributions (NDC) to the Paris Agreement. It is being implemented in four districts: Kamonyi, Ruhango, Nyanza and Gisagara districts, by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) in partnership with the Rwanda Forestry Authority (RFA).
The project was officially launched on 23 October 2020 in Nyanza District and coincided with the national event to launch the annual forest planting season in Rwanda.
“This ground-breaking project is part of Rwanda’s efforts to increase our resilience to climate change by investing in nature-based solutions. When it comes to adapting to the warming of our planet, Mother Nature is our best ally. Restoring forests and landscapes will not only benefit our environment, but also improve the health and livelihoods of Rwandans and create green jobs.We are looking forward to seeing the Amayaga region green once again,” said Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya.
Eight million of trees will be planted to restore degraded forests. Fruit trees will be planted on 25,000ha to increase agro-forestation, improve productivity and well-being of inhabitants of the four districts. The project propels and fast tracks the Government’s plan to maintain forest cover to 30.4% of the country’s total land area into the future.
The Green Amayaga project will increase the erosion control and protection of marshlands and buffer zones to foster agriculture productivity.
Nyirahabimana Josee 39, a resident of Muyira Sector, Nyanza district commended the initiative saying that erosion control brings hope. She has been a victim of soil erosion for long as her land is located on a steep hill. “Last year, I suffered a big loss when heavy rains washed away 80% of my crops. It has become normal to lose land portions due to erosion since our land are located on hills,” explains Nyirahabima who adds “This project is a great opportunity for me as I will get double benefit. Not only it will help me to control erosion on my soil but I will also plant fruit trees to increase productivity and wellbeing of my three children.”
“By integrating a climate investment lens to our work, we can create a new type of farming – carbon farming – potentially more lucrative and sustainable than traditional crops,” said Maxwell Gomera, UNDP Resident Representative in Rwanda.
In total, 263,000 hectares of agricultural land will be restored and rehabilitated. Small and large watersheds will also be rehabilitated and restored to provide water for human consumption as well as livestock and agriculture activities. The project will strengthen the resilience of communities and biodiversity and contribute to climate change stabilization.
Overall, 1.3 million persons from Gisagara, Nyanza, Kamonyi, and Ruhango districts will benefits from the project, including 362,000 direct beneficiaries. The project will create green jobs for people, over 90% of them being youth and women.
7,500 households will be provided with small livestock to increase livelihoods resilience of local communities in four districts. 60,000 households will be provided with improved and energy-efficient cooking stoves to decrease wood consumption by at least 25%.
“The Green Amayaga project is yet another example of the Government and people of Rwanda’s remarkable levels of preparedness and creativity. Restoring biodiversity and landscapes is not just good sense in these extraordinary times, it is imperative. When biodiversity thrives, we all thrive,” said Maxwell.
UNDP has been working with the Government of Rwanda and other partners to address development challenges by supporting various programmes and initiative aimed at increasing social and economic resilience and achieve sustainable development.
Reiterating UNDP’s support to green growth initiatives and solutions, Maxwell said “I would like to reaffirm UNDP’s commitment to strengthening our partnership for building back a better economy and society, one that will combat climate change and unsustainable management of the environment and improve the wealth and livelihoods of the people of Rwanda."