Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda
Source: Flikr / Rwanda Government

In 2011, the Government of Rwanda pledged to bring 2 million hectares of deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020. Compared to Rwanda’s total geographic area, This goal represents the highest proportion committed to the Bonn Challenge to date. Rwanda lost over 65% of its forests between 1956 and 1996, due to a long period of civil war. By 2004, forest cover was 19.6%; as Rwanda now has about 28.8% forest cover, forests have grown by about 1% per year for more than a decade. Currently, about 37% of Rwanda’s forests consist of humid natural forests and savannahs.

One of the three pillars that the Bonn Challenge Barometer will focus on is technical knowledge and underpinning – whether a jurisdiction has maps and analysis of restoration potential, and whether they have identified priority areas for restoration and priority interventions. Tracking indicators include carbon impact estimates, existence of in-country monitoring mechanisms or information at different scales (e.g. community-led, district or regional), and gap assessments (e.g. restoration diagnostic of key success factors).

Rwanda’s experience is a useful case study on how a solid foundation of technical knowledge can ensure successful restoration.

The Bonn Challenge Barometer of Progress will complement restoration efforts at multiple scales and by a range of actors. The Barometer will profile leadership and quantifiable progress on FLR in support of the Bonn Challenge and equip pledgers and partners with information to accelerate action and address implementation bottlenecks. Some of the anticipated benefits and impacts from the project include:

  • Identifying and raising awareness of in-country restoration opportunities and needs for investors, the private sector, and other interested parties.
  • Raising awareness on the benefits of restoration and the important contribution restoration can make toward achieving developmental and environmental goals including the Sustainable Development Goals, Aichi Biodiversity Targets, Paris Agreement, Land Degradation Neutrality goal, and others.
  • Helping to advance science and best practices on restoration by providing a wealth of new information to researchers on restoration practices and results from around the world.
Rwanda communities
Rwanda community discussions. Photo: Craig Beatty/IUCN

The Government of Rwanda recognises the importance of forest landscapes for its socio-economic transformation goals. The country's Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS2) provides a roadmap for forest cover increase up to 30% of the total country, and its commitment to halt and reverse environmental degradation is also highlighted in the national development plan, Vision 2020. Vision 2020 was launched in 2000 and revised in 2012 to reflect the cross-cutting nature of natural resources, environment and climate change.

This political will is also reflected in Rwanda’s national Green Growth and Climate Resilient Strategy (GGCRS) which provides a framework for Rwanda to be a developed, climate-resilient and low-carbon economy by 2050.

Technical planning for FLR

Planning and prioritisation

The Government of Rwanda applied the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) in 2014, in collaboration with IUCN and WRI. The results showed that while there is a strong policy framework in support of FLR, institutional coordination across agencies is minimal and inconsistencies exist between the policies and strategies of various Ministries. The ROAM assessment found a high potential for improvement of these conditions.

The ROAM report also recognised that the Rwandan conflict in 1994 resulted in knowledge gaps in the forest sector that have yet to be fully closed, due to complete disruption of experience and skills transfer from one generation of foresters to another. In recent years, however, the Government has taken proactive steps to address these gaps. For example, the government rolled out a modular training framework sponsored by the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA) and the Reforestation Support Project (PAREF) is planning a new national inventory. The PAREF project supports afforestation programs in order to create vibrant, healthy local ecology that ensures the sustainable management of forests for sustainable economic growth.

Rwanda conducted a countrywide ROAM assessment in 2014 that identified the following forest landscape restoration opportunities:

  • New agroforestry: 1,110,476 hectares
  • Improved management of woodlots: 255,930 hectares
  • Improved management of timber plantations: 17,849 hectares
  • Natural forests: 13,933 hectares
  • Protected forests: 128,191 hectares

In total, Rwanda has 1,526,379 hectares of restoration opportunities. Due to population density agroforestry comparatively offers the greatest opportunity, with approximately 30% suitability nationwide, on both flat and sloping lands.

Rwanda’s Green Growth and Climate Change Resilience Strategy (GGCRS) mentions several goals that would integrate policy planning across departments. A key program stated in the Strategy is the Integrated Development Programme (IDP), which will facilitate the implementation of climate-resilient, low carbon development in rural areas. The IDP will incorporate the Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme, which aims to accelerate poverty eradication, rural growth, and social protection. Several sectors are already working together to improve development in rural areas and the Rural Development Task Force can be used to incorporate climate resilience into the IDP.

Monitoring

The GGCRS also includes a number of monitoring goals, including implementing regular measuring and reporting of energy use across sectors to develop a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions profile and future energy requirements. More accurate knowledge of energy demands will enable better short- and long-term planning of energy resource management. This will also support applications for climate finance, which require that GHG emissions are measurable, reportable and verifiable.

A key capacity-building plan is to review and expand the Technical and Vocational Educational and Training (TVET) program to develop skills needed for GGCRS implementation. Rwanda’s Workforce Development Agency has proposed a TVET qualifications framework, which will facilitate the development of new qualifications in areas such as renewable energy, agroforestry and irrigation. In conjunction with capacity building are knowledge management goals, which include setting up an online Climate Portal to communicate the National Strategy to the public and international community, thereby raising awareness and facilitating knowledge sharing. The GGCRS report mentions that has been done successfully by India and South Korea and is particularly important for adaptation as all Rwandans need to take steps to becoming climate resilient.

Success factors: financial flows

In 2013, the Government of Rwanda established the National Climate and Environment Fund (FONERWA) to emphasise the country’s environmental priorities and commitments as well as to support financing for environmental projects. This fund is now the primary financing mechanism for environmental and climate change projects in Rwanda. By centralising all funding for environment and climate change initiatives through this fund, the Government of Rwanda can ensure consistency of such initiatives with national priorities and targets. The fund began with a demand-led approach to investment and is progressively transitioning to project selection for funding more strategic and/or programmatic work. This creates an opportunity for the fund to focus on FLR investments.

The Government of Rwanda is attempting to mainstream climate resilience and low carbon development into goals and initiatives that are currently underway. The Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy mentions a goal of operationalising FONERWA to facilitate access to international climate finance. Capacity and additional support will be required for it to channeling climate finance into implementation planning.

Rwanda farming
Rwanda farming. Photo: Craig Beatty/IUCN

Results and benefits

Rwanda’s commitment to follow a development trajectory that minimises pressure on natural resources, including on biodiversity, forests and land cover, and reverses the process of land degradation, indicates a policy framework that is supportive of FLR implementation.

The Bonn Challenge Barometer of Progress is launching its Spotlight Report in late 2017. InfoFLR is your source for more Barometer news and case studies.