Rwanda, a developing country covering an area of 26 338km2, is facing a high demographic pressure (455 people per km2) on our limited natural resources. This demographic pressure leads to forest and biodiversity loss and compromises climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Due to this population increase, natural forests are under threat. Since 2003, Rwanda has been leading its way towards environmental stability. Many adaptations strategies have been introduced to address natural resources management issues. One of the most promoted strategy is agroforestry.
It is worth noting that 82% of the Rwandan population live in rural areas and depends on agriculture for a living. Agriculture is also a pillar to the country’s economy; it contributes 33% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Rwanda has pledged to restore 2 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020 essentially through agroforestry.
Since October 2020, the Albertine Rift Conservation Society, in partnership with the Livelihood Funds, is implementing a 20-year project ‘Agroforestry for Livelihoods’ aiming to plant 4 million trees and engage about 30 000 smallholder farmers who will be trained in sustainable agriculture land management (SALM) and small-scale enterprises business literacy and practice to improve their livelihoods. Under this project, agroforestry— which also involves indigenous trees— and fruit trees planting is already being implemented in Rulindo district (in the northern part of the country) as well as in Bugesera district (located in the eastern part of the country), targeting plantation on 15,209 hectares of land.
Dr. Apollinaire William, the Agroforestry for Livelihoods' Programme Manager at ARCOS, affirmed that this partnership between ARCOS and Livelihoods Funds is based on a common goal of building climate change resilience through agroforestry tree planting, sustainable agriculture land management support to smallholder farmers and through empowerment of communities with livelihoods opportunities geared at improving farmers’ income and wellbeing.
“This project is, in its very essence, being implemented to contribute to smallholder farmer community’s resilience to climate change impacts by reducing soil erosion impacts and restoring soil fertility as well as improving communities’ livelihoods,” he said.
On his recent visit in Rulindo and Bugesera project-targeted landscapes, Bernard Giraud, Livelihoods Funds President, was fascinated by the success of the project’s implementations despite COVID-19 hindrances. “The coming year will be a key step to prove that the model works at scale,” stressed Giraud. He also emphasized that farmers —practicing sustainable land management — need to take special care of young trees.
Overall, it may be said that this project aims to improve soil health and to control its runoff as well as erosion in climate-prone hilly regions. The Agroforestry for Livelihoods will also facilitate farmers’ access to the markets and improve key value chains including fruits, spices and vegetables, it will also increase profitability of farmers’ farm plots. Last but not least, this project will enhance food security by promoting livestock, horticulture, beekeeping, shaded tea, post-harvest and market linkages, as well as financial literacy, to improve income among smallholder farmer communities within Rulindo and Bugesera districts.