Leaving a legacy of ecosystem restoration and climate resilience in Rwanda
The Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation (LAFREC) Project is concluding after six years of transforming the Gishwati-Mukura landscape. The project has, for example, created a new national park, which UNESCO declared as a Biosphere Reserve. It has also enhanced wood fuel value chains, created new habitats and infrastructure, and made the country more resilient to climate change.
“The LAFREC project has not only transformed the landscape by protecting and restoring biodiversity, but it has also transformed the lives of thousands of Rwandans and demonstrated that investing in nature yields significant returns for both people and the planet,” says Juliet Kabera, Director General, Rwanda Environment Management Authority.
NDF joined the project in 2017, contributing to a component for improving woodlot management and tree seed quality and providing technical assistance for more efficient charcoal production and biomass processing in Rwanda.
From landscape restoration to cookstove testing
Over the last six years, the project has used a landscape restoration approach to rehabilitate the Gishwati-Mukura landscape and bring forest ecosystems into better management, with an aim to bring benefits for communities living in and around the park.
The project has brought significant changes to the Gishwati-Mukura National Park buffer zone: 603 hectares have been restored, 32 hectares of illegal mining sites repaired, 900 hectares of woodlots improved, and 446 hectares of farmland are now under the silvopastoralism, which benefits both farmers and our environment.
Additionally, the project introduced the first ever national referral cookstove test laboratory. While there are plenty of cookstoves entering the African markets, there is no certainty of their quality and safety. The new laboratory has started providing services covering regulators’ survey needs in biomass fuels use, conformity assessment of imported and locally manufactured cookstoves and calculation of emission factors. The laboratory contributes to improving the health of households through reduction of indoor air pollution, reduction in deforestation and ensuring value for money for consumers.
Tree seed centres to support adaptation needs
Another objective of this project was to improve seed quality and diversify the tree seed pool. The project supported the use of native species in forest restoration through the National Seed Centre. In addition, to ensure better resistance to climate change, the project supported the use of climate-resilient tree seeds that may withstand, for example, increased temperatures and floods.
Demand for biomass energy is one of the major drivers for forest degradation in Rwanda: 86% of primary energy comes from wood-based biomass. Wood fuel is used for household cooking and in industries such as tea factories. Thus, improving the biomass energy value chain is fundamental to ensuring that energy demands are met in a sustainable way without compromising the integrity of the remaining forests.
The project launched two new tree seed centres in Gatsibo and Huye districts of Rwanda. These seed centres are one-stop-shop for tree seed supply activities. They provide diverse, high-quality tree reproductive materials that are adapted to the country’s different agro-ecological regions.
The project started in 2015 by the Government of Rwanda through the Rwanda Environment Management Authority with support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the World Bank. In 2017, the project was expanded with support of Nordic Development Fund to improve the efficiency and sustainability of charcoal and wood fuel value chains.