Forest management stakeholders reiterate commitment to the promotion of indigenous trees for landscape restoration in Rwanda

On 15th October2021 at Lemigo Hotel, the Rwanda Forestry Authority (RFA) and ARCOS held a national technical exchange workshop on the promotion of indigenous species for landscape restoration in Rwanda. 

On 15thOctober 2021 at Lemigo Hotel, the Rwanda Forestry Authority (RFA) and the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) held a National Technical Exchange Workshop on the Promotion of Indigenous Species for Landscape Restoration in Rwanda. This workshop brought together various stakeholders in the environment sector with the aim to share experience and knowledge regarding the integration of indigenous trees in Rwanda’s agro-systems. 

In his opening remarks, the Executive Director of ARCOS, Dr Sam Kanyamibwa recalled to the participants that apart from their ecological values, indigenous trees act as indicators of cultural phenomena when interpreted in the context of a society. Both ecosystem and cultural services emphasize why these trees need to be introduced in landscape restoration in Rwanda. 

For his part, Mr Jean Pierre Mugabo, the Director General of Rwanda of Forestry Authority (RFA) aid that “This occasion is a good opportunity to discuss how we can get an appropriate approach in reintroducing these species which have been wiped out in the past”, He also mentioned that the promotion of the indigenous trees should be an inclusive initiative from government bodies, civil societies organizations and local communities.  

Mr Jean Pierre Mugabo, the Director General of Rwanda Forestry Authority (RFA). Photo Credits: ARCOS

Research-based evidence from the Rwanda Forestry Authority shows that, indigenous trees have been wiped out over time due to different reasons. Participants of this workshop stressed that, along the journey to restoration, the trend in tree planting has shown strong preference of exotic trees than indigenous species by farmers. This might be linked with the understanding that exotic trees bring more economic interests. However, it was demonstrated that there are so many reasons that farmers, who are the forefront partners in restoration, would also appreciate indigenous tree species if they are well sensitized and recalled about their real ecological and socio-economic values in Rwanda’s society. 

“This occasion is a good opportunity to discuss how we can get an appropriate approach in reintroducing these species which have been wiped out in the past.” said Jean Pierre Mugabo, the Director General of Rwanda Forestry Authority. In his remarks, he also mentioned that the promotion of the indigenous trees should be an inclusive initiative from government bodies, civil societies organizations and local communities.  

During this workshop, ARCOS shared its experience in promoting integration of indigenous species in Rwanda agro-systems through the Agroforestry for Livelihoods Project. Through this project, ARCOS works with farmers by building foundation for long-term partnership towards sustainability through its BEST approach (B: Building leadership and sustainable community institutions; E: Enhancing environmental resilience; S: Sustainable business solutions; T: Transforming and inspiring others). In this journey, ARCOS takes time discuss with farmers grouped into Friends of Nature Associations (FNAs) the key environmental and climate-related issues and potential restoration actions including sustainable agricultural land management practices and tree planting (including indigenous species) among others. 

This occasion offered a great opportunity to participants to discuss various challenges as slow germination and growth together with limited knowledge on adaptability of indigenous trees. 

“We need to strategize the integration of indigenous trees in landscape restoration. We need to restore what once existed on these landscapes, otherwise, restoration would not be effective.” said Dr. Sam Kanyamibwa.

Dr Sam Kanyamibwa recapitulated that there is a need of focusing on the engagement approach. He added that apart from a strong partnership with farmers, there is need to develop incentives which encourage farmers to take care of the planted indigenous trees.

In his closing remarks, the Director General of Rwanda Forestry Authority, Mr Jean Pierre Mugabo commended the outcomes of this national technical workshop. 

“This occasion brought together different stakeholders, from government and non-government institutions, researchers, private sector together with development agencies, we should benefit from this occasion and transform it into a forum where ideas based on research and experience regarding the promotion of indigenous trees can be exchanged.” said Mugabo.