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Forest Network in Rwanda


· Rwanda forests and woodlands can be classified into the natural forests and woodlands.

· Two of the major tree species in Rwanda’s woodlands include pine and eucalyptus.

· The Vision 2020 and EDPRS set clear target to increase national forest cover and for the forestry sector to play increasing role in the national economy.

· The overall goal of this policy is to make the forestry sector one of the bedrocks of the economy and national ecological balance for sustainable benefits to all segments of the society.

· Problems related to forestry in Rwanda centre on land scarcity in general and severe poverty of the people.

· Rwanda’s National Forest Policy has won the 2011 Future Policy Award as the world’s most inspiring and innovative forest policy.

· The national policy to heal and restore nature, through a border-to-border restoration program, will create the basis for a healthy and resilient society of the future. It addresses concerns of the international community since it stresses reforestation of every available land in order to reduce risks of desertification, erosion, climate change and degradation of water resources.


  • Innocent Bizimana: President -Environmental Programmes, Association pour la Promotion des Etudes d’Impact Environmentaux au Rwanda.

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Presentation to the Bagamoya Convention 2012


Forestry policies and communication: Case of Rwanda

Innocent Bizimana


The forestry sector is playing key roles in supporting the livelihood of all Rwandans especially by providing most of the energy consumed by the bulk population, controlling soil erosion and protecting water catchments and supplying other goods and ecological services.

Rwanda forests and woodlands can be classified into the natural forests and woodlands comprising the following main categories: the natural forests of the Congo Nile Ridge comprised with Nyungwe National Park, Gishwati, and Mukura; the natural forests of the Volcanoes National Park; the natural forests in the savannah and gallery-forest of the Akagera National Park and remnants of gallery-forests and savannahs of Bugesera, Gisaka and Umutara; and forest plantations dominated by exotic species (Eucalyptus sp, Pinus sp, Grevillea robusta) and trees scattered on farmlands (agro-forestry) and along anti-erosion ditches (REMA, 2009).

The Inventory of Wood Resources report shows the distribution of Forest cover by main categories of forests in hectares and percentage as by 2007.

Table 1: Type of forest distribution in hectares and by percentage in Rwanda


Forest type

Area in hectares



Humid mountain forests








Eucalyptus Plantations




Pine plantations




Young eucalyptus plantations and coppices




Degraded natural forests




Bamboo plantations







Source: MINITERE and GIS-NUR, 2007

The same Forestry Products Inventory in Rwanda (MINITERE and CGIS-NUR, 2007) has also specified the following major tree species in the woodlands:

· Eucalyptus spp(58.9%)

  • Pinus ssp(28.3%)

· Callitris spp(1.8%)

  • Acacia spp(1.6%)

· Cypressus spp(0.5%)

· Grevillea spp(0.1%) and,

· Boisements heterogenes (8.7%)


Strategic Planning and the Forestry Sector

The Vision 2020 and EDPRS set clear targets to increase national forest cover and for the forestry sector to play increasing role in national economy. However, due to high population density (387 inhabitants/km2 in 2009), farming land per household is shrinking and there is a high competition for land between forestry, agriculture and other developmental activities.

Moreover, national economic growth requires more energy, leading sometimes to over exploitation of national forest resources. All these impact negatively on our pace towards orientation and targets set in the Vision 2020 and EDPRS and require revision of the 2004 national forestry policy for specifically addressing following issues:

· Increasing competition for land between forestry and other developmental activities.

· Poor management of manmade forest compromising a sustained yield.

· Low private investment in the creation of forest resources, in value addition to forest products and in diversification of forest products.

· Existence of over mature and degraded forests.

· High dependence on importation of industrially processed forest products.

Therefore the targets for the Forestry and Nature Conservation have been set as follows:

· Forest cover: (% of land area) from 22.4(2010/11) to 30 (in 2020)

· % of households using wood energy as source of energy: from 86.3(2010/11) to50(2020)

· Percentage of land area protected to maintain biodiversity: (%) from 10.13 to 10.3%


Guiding Principles for the Forest Policy

The following principles shall guide enunciation of the forestry policy and its subsequent implementation. They build on government political and development priorities, especially the Constitution of Rwanda and the EDPRS.

  • Sustainable Forest Management (SFM): All forest and tree resources in Rwanda shall be managed to yield sustainable streams of social, economic and ecological goods and services, to enable the sector to meet the forestry needs of the current generation without compromising similar rights of future generations.
  • Commercialisation of Forestry Activities: Forestry operations shall be undertaken in a business-manner, with a sharp focus on result-based management. In this context, the government will invite the private sector to invest in wood processing and value-addition in all mature plantations.
  • Species diversification: Tree farming shall endeavour to use a wide range of species on the basis of species matching.
  • Agroforestry technologies: In view of the land shortage in Rwanda for extensive forest plantations, farm forestry using multi-purpose nitrogen-fixing species shall be pursued vigorously.
  • Ecologically and physically fragile areas : Special care shall be taken to conserve ecologically fragile areas in order to conserve the biodiversity therein and to protect areas prone to soil erosion and landslides.
  • Forestry research: To the extent practicable, key decisions on forest management shall be informed by fundamentals of forestry science, buttressed by appropriate knowledge emanating from research.
  • Stakeholder involvement and partnerships: All key stake-holders in forestry at various levels (national, provincial, district and community) shall be involved in decision-making that are relevant and affect them.
  • Forest management planning: To achieve the broad intentions of the forestry policy, management of forests shall be in accordance with approved management plans to achieve objectives stated therein, irrespective of ownership.
  • Private sector involvement: There will be a systematic phasing in of the private sector to play the dominant role especially in forest management and forest products processing, the public sector retaining only the regulatory function, research and quality assurance.
  • Decentralised governance: Classified forests shall be managed in accordance with decentralised governance prevailing in Rwanda through the “Performance Contract” modality.
  • Public good: In view of the multiple roles played by forests, all forests shall be taken to serve a common good interest irrespective of ownership. This implies that any action taken in any forest shall be regulated to safeguard public interest.
  • Livelihoods enhancement: Improvement of livelihoods and fighting poverty shall be a major goal in all strategies and actions in the forest sector.
  • Gender and equity : Affirmative action to redress gender inequalities and disadvantaged groups shall be integrated in all forest management plans.
  • International obligations: All strategies and actions in the forest sector shall internalise forest-related current and future international conventions, agreements and protocols.

The overall goal of this policy is to make the forestry sector one of the bedrocks of economy and national ecological balance for sustainable benefits to all segments of the society.

The specific objectives of this forestry policy are to:

· Encourage the participation of private sector to invest in the forest sector for poverty reduction, employment creation and improvement of livelihood through sustainable use, conservation and management of forests and trees;

· Contribute to sustainable land use through soil, water and biodiversity conservation, and tree planting through the sustainable management of forests and trees;

· Strengthen the participation of communities and other stakeholders in forest management to conserve water catchment areas, forest biodiversity and ensure sustainability of the forest sector;

· Promote farm forestry to produce timber, wood fuel and to supply wood and non-wood forest products;

· Promote forest extension to enable farmers and other forest stakeholders to benefit from forest management approaches and technologies; and

· Promote forest research, training and education to ensure a vibrant forest sector.


Opportunities and Constraints in the Forestry Sector in Rwanda


There are positive features that favour development of all-round vibrant, productive and profitable forestry. These include the following:

· Environmental protection has been ranked among national priorities;

· Existence of decentralised civil governance structures;

· Existence of the National Forestry Fund (NFF);

· High level political goodwill illustrated by putting in a place institutions with a clear mission for developing the forest sector;

· Many national policies, programmes and projects, especially those dealing with environment, food security, energy, water, land management and soil conservation prioritise forestry as one of the key interventions;

· Existence of international conventions and agreements on forests; and

· Existence of a forum for private sector engagement with the Government of Rwanda.

· International Community increasing interests in forests seen as a major contributor to carbon sequestration for reducing global warming.

Constraints in the forest sector

Problems related to forestry in Rwanda centre on land scarcity in general and severe poverty of the people. The core problems include:

· Excessive and indiscriminate cutting of forests: Wood is the main source of energy for most Rwandans (96%) and industries. Demand is increasing in concert with growing human population. Forest harvesting is poorly done and law enforcement is more of an exception than the rule. The two features lead to over-exploitation, resulting in excessive soil erosion. It is estimated that Rwanda loses 945, 200 tonnes of organic material, 41, 210 tonnes of nitrogen, 280 tonnes of phosphorus and 3. 055 tonnes of potassium each year through soil erosion, which lowers agricultural productivity and is a threat to food security;

· Uneven distribution of forest resources over the country: Most of the Classified Forests are located along the Congo-Nile Ridge. The rest of the country has a wood deficit. The situation is critical in Bugesera and Umutara. Bugesera has particularly experienced intense charcoal making and massive human population immigration in search of agricultural land;

· Low productivity of existing man made forests and poor quality of forest genetic material: Existing forest plantation have been created in the last century, most of them underwent a coppicing regime. Short harvesting rotations have exhausted stumps, mean annual increment dropped from 15 m 3 per ha in 1988 to 8m3per ha to date. There are no seed orchards to provide quality seeds to forest growers, seeds are collected from the impressive arboretum established during the 1930s’ in Huye. A rapid assessment concluded to high hybridisation of Eucalyptus species leading to inbreeding and hence degraded genetic material. Biotechnology for multiplying highly productive clones of Eucalyptus is not yet utilised for availing improved seedlings to forest growers.

· Low afforestation rate: At 0.029ha per capita, the FAO standard of 1ha per person to simultaneously meet ecological balance and wood demand is not being achieved;

· Wasteful conversion: The bulk of tree conversion for timber is by pit-sawing, a practice that has severe technical limitations as it can only convert logs of a specific diameter and form and has low volume recovery from a felled tree. Also, the bulk of woodfuel is consumed in its primary form and despite development of woodfuel saving technologies, most people have not adopted them;

· Insufficiency of data on the forestry sector: Knowledge of the extent of forest resources in the country is limited. Forestry inventory and data collection of utilisation of forest resources are irregular. These complicate sound management and do not incite private investment in the forestry sector.

· Dominance by one species: More than 80% of the species utilised in reforestation and afforestation is comprised of various species of Eucalyptus. Relying on monoculture constitutes a real threat to the sustainability of our forestry sector, in case of outbreak of diseases or pests. There is dire need for species diversification if farm forestry is to be successful.

  • Failure to use existing forest plantations: Since the 1970s, the Government of Rwanda (GoR) has received considerable support for afforestation and has established forests plantations around Nyungwe natural forest, in Gitarama, Gisenyi and Byumba. Today, these forests are mature and some of them were ready for harvesting since 1998. Meanwhile, many trees are beginning to suffer heart-rot and are easily wind-thrown due to old age and lack of proper management, and efforts to put them to use are just beginning;

· Under-estimation of economical importance of forestry: It is very difficult to assign realistic value to forest products and services due to the broad structure of the economy of Rwanda (dominated by peasant subsistence farmers and small-scale informal business), lack of technical capacity and the fact that the bulk of wood is consumed as a primary product, outside the formal market place, making data capture almost impossible;

  • Land for reforestation and afforestation: It is estimated that in order to fill the gap between demand and supply of wood, it will require planting additional more than 400,000ha and increasing the forest productivity up to an average of 15m3/ha/year. Such land is not available in Rwanda and productivity is very low; according to EDPRS 2008-2012, more than 60 % of households owned less than 0.7 ha of land and more than 15% of households cultivated less than 0.2 ha of land in 2006.

· Inadequate Extension Services: The success of forestry requires steady and competent extension. The country lacks competent personnel and budget allocation for the purpose is inadequate. It should not be overlooked that Rwandan farmers, in common with farmers elsewhere in Africa, have all the necessary skills to grow good tree crops. They need to be given advice, shown how to perform critical activities and given access to the right equipment, the success of forestry requires steady and competent extension services to ensure constant education, monitoring and evaluation of the achievements at grass-root level. Insufficiency and absence of well-trained technicians (foresters) will not permit this to happen, at least in the near future. The forestry sector experiences shortage of professional foresters; with only 27 professionals out of 150 foresters needed in the country in 2009, there is an urgent need to train more people in forestry.

Rwanda Forestry Policy at International Arena

The issue of forests has been a priority on the international policy and political agendas for the past two decades. At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) the forest issue was among the most controversial, polarizing developing and developed countries. Significant progress has been made since UNCED. Throughout this last decade, the main focus within the United Nations has been to develop coherent policies to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests

In 2006, the United Nation General Assembly declared 2011 the International year of Forests and invited Governments, the United Nations system, relevant non-governmental organizations, the private sector and other section to make concerted efforts to raise awareness at all levels to strengthen the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of trusts for the benefit of current and future generation. As a member of international organizations , Rwanda has ratified all conventions related to forests such as the UNCCC, UNCCD, CBD and started their implementation.

Rwanda’s National Forest Policy has won the 2011 Future Policy Award as the world’s most inspiring and innovative forest policy. This policy is placing Rwanda firmly on the map as a global environmental leader. The policy is considered as the most effective contributor to the conservation and sustainable development of forests for the benefit of current and future generations as announced by the World Future Council on 21 September 2011, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The national policy to heal and restore nature, through a border-to-border restoration program, will create the basis for a healthy and resilient society of the future. It addresses concerns of the international community since it stresses reforestation of every available land in order to reduce risks of desertification, erosion, climate change and degradation of water resources.

Regional issues in forestry management

At regional level, there is risk that overexploitation of forests will lead to destruction of ecosystems and desertification in the near future. In order to curtail such risks, the present policy provides for collaboration with neighbouring countries in protecting transboundary forest ecosystems.

Rwanda is represented in various forums and regional organisations related to the development of forest resources, of which COMIFAC, EAC, and the Nile Basin Initiative. Transboundary collaboration for forest ecosystems management are ongoing such as Great Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, Akagera Transboundary Programme, Lake Victoria Environment management programme.


Communication in the Forestry Sector

Communication in the Forestry Sector of Rwanda follows different channels and is carried out through different activities and events related to Environment and Forestry. Some are periodic and some are seasonal, but regular and significant. The most known nationwide are the following:

· Twice a year joint field visits are organized by the forestry staff and parliamentarians raise awareness of the population on the policy.

· Task forces for forest protection have been established at the national and district levels and provide people with the right information on policy and law.

· Since 2006, Annual Performance contracts are being signed between Mayors of Districts and HE the President to serve as an accountability tool.

· Open days are organized at national and district levels where the public is given information on policy implementation.

· A gorilla naming ceremony organised every year where the community participates in the National Volcanoes Park conservation through a participatory ceremony to give a name to young or baby gorillas.

· A environment week and an environment day celebrated since the Rio Summit of 1992 and most of the celebration activities are related to forestry.

· A national week of tree planting institutionalized since 1983 to mobilize a wide range of stakeholders, especially the Rwandan community. During this week, Goverment Senior Officials and the media are very active in the launching and closing activities. Hectares of land are planted with trees and hectares of trees or existing forests are tendered in different manners or ways.

· TV and Radio programmes have been set: Weekly transmissions on forest protection and mangement, talk-shows organised twice a year, regular spots on different forest issues in local language.

· Monthly community works (Umuganda) are organised at the village level during which a specific communication on forestry management, policy and legislation occurs every last Saturday of the month. HE the President of the Republic, Parliamentarians, Ministers and all Government Officials and staff from local entities join the population to work together and discuss environmental issues after the work.

People’s perception on forestry communication in Rwanda

The «Strategie de comunication du Secteur Forestier au Rwanda» or the communication strategy for the Forestry Sector in Rwanda elaborated in November 2011 pointed out the following most frequent communication activities in the Forestry Sector.

Meetings, trainings, live debates, reports are the most carried out activities related to Forestry communication. The use of mobile phones and internet is increasingly appreciable as Rwanda provided a lot of efforts to spread internet and mobile phones use facilities such optical cables and communication networks. The community works /umuganda organized every last Saturday have become a culture and a useful opportunity to deliver messages and exchange views on sustainable forest management and environment promotion. The table below summarizes the findings.



Table2: Communication activities related to Forest Management

Activités de communication/Communication activities





31.8 %



13.2 %

Contact direct/Entretien/Live debate

9.3 %

Correspondance écrite/Written messages


8.5 %

Rapports écrits/Reports


7.0 %

Communication téléphonique/Telephone calls

6.2 %

Réunions après Umuganda/Meetings after community works(Umuganda)


4.7 %

Communication via internet (email, web)/Emails

3.9 %

Reportage (radio, télévision, journal)/TV,Radio/Newspaper reporting

3.1 %

Itorero (cadre d'initiation aux valeurs rwandaises)/Initiation on cultural values

3.1 %

Séminaire/Seminars or workshops


2.3 %

Notes de cours /Syllabus


1.6 %

Messages dans la semaine de l'arbre/Messages during the National tree week

1.6 %

Communiqué de presse /Press release


1.6 %

Spots publicitaires/Publicity/spots


0.8 %

Préparation d'affiches/Posters


0.8 %

Notes techniques/Publications/Technical notes or Publications

0.8 %






Actors in communication activities

The communication strategy shows different actors involved in communication activities related to Forestry in Rwanda. District and Sector’s Forest Officers and Agronomists are key actors in communication activities for Sustainable Forest Mnagement. Learning Institutions and local authorities as well as Government Officials are also recognised for their active role in awareness raising and engaging the community for forestry management and environment protection.

Different reforestation projects and programmes like Programme d’Appui à la reforestation (PAREF) and Projet d’Appui a l’Amenagement Forestier au Rwanda (PAFOR) respectively supported by Belgian Technical Cooperation and the African Development Bank are doing a good job in sensitizing people on Forest Sustainable management. They are identified here as programme managers or projects managers.

Teachers and lecturers are well represented in communication activities as they educate students on environment management, forestry agroforestry, soil erosion control, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity conservation, water management, etc. The table below gives details on the personnel in charge of communication in the Forestry Sector.


Table 3 : Actors forestry communication activities

Chargé d'activités de communication/Actors in forestry communication


Agronomes (District, Secteur)/District,sector’s /Foresters and agronomists

18.6 %

Institution (Ecole, Tout le personnel,..)/Learning institutions

11.4 %

Autorités locales/Local authorities


10.0 %

Chef de Service (DG, Station, Atelier)/ Heads of service

8.6 %

Enseignants/Professeurs/Teachers or lecturers


8.6 %

Chef de Programme/Programme managers


7.1 %

Animateurs forestiers/Foresters


5.7 %

Personnel Impliqué/Personnel/staff in charge


5.7 %

Chargé d'environnement/Environment Officers


5.7 %

Secrétaire Exécutif de Secteur/Executive Secrataries of Sectors

4.3 %



4.3 %

Journaliste/ Rédacteur en chef/Directeur/Journalists

2.9 %

Chargé de Vulgarisation/Extension officers


2.9 %

Chargé de Relations Publiques/Public Relations officers

2.9 %

Service de documentation et ICT/Documentation and ICT centres

1.4 %





As regard to areas where more information is needed, most of the people interviewed would like to hear about forestry policy and legislation, tree planting and forest management techniques, case studies on forest management, agroforestry, forest products value addition, processing and marketing, timber and non timber Forest Products and state of forests reports.

Table 4: Areas where most people need information









1. Policy and legislation






2. Tree panting and Forest management






3. Exemples of case studies on forest management





4. Agroforestry






5. Forest products value addition, processing and marketing





6. Timber and Non timber Forest Products






7. Forest inventories





8. Forests state reports





9. Biodiversity and Forestry resources





10. Sustainable Forest Management techniques





11. Tools for sustainabe forest management implementation





12. Others






Preferred channels for communication are radio as in 2012 more than 60% of households own radio sets, Internet, SMS, TV. They prefer listening to messages from their radio rather than going to meetings and workshops because it takes them a lot of time they would use for other activities. In urban areas TV and SMS are used more and people are more comfortable with this communication channels. As internet facilities and electricity are gaining the rural areas, these channels will be increasingly used in those areas as well.

Table 5: Preferred channels for quick access to forestry related information

Canal préféré/Preffered channels to access information



























Journal Forestier/Newspaper


Chansons, Théâtre/Songs/drama



Champs de démonstration/Demonstration sites and fields




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