By Jean-Christophe Nsanzimana,
The Rwandan government has put in place necessary machineries aimed at promoting its newly inaugurated national forest policy.
With the vision of promoting Rwanda’s national forest policy, which has received the Our Future Policy Gold Award 2011, the World Future Council (WFC) brought together parliamentarians, policy-makers from Central and Eastern Africa, forest policy experts, NGOs and media representatives to inspire future policies and laws protecting forests, their biodiversity and people depending on them.
The 3-day meeting assessed the exemplary policies in action and illustrates how effective forest management can be one of the bedrocks for the economy, food security, poverty alleviation, and ecological balance.
Alexandra Wandel, the director of WFC, said that every year the organization chooses one area where policy progress is particularly urgent and awards the best policies in this field with Our Future Policy Award. In 2011, under the theme ‘Forests for people,’ Rwanda’s national forest policy was proclaimed the winner. The World Future Council is an organization that pursues the implementation of long-term policies that promote sustainable living in order to secure the rights of future generations to inhabit a healthy and intact world.
“Rwanda has achieved an increase in forest coverage by 37% since 1990 and has done so by empowering people, by engaging youth and women associations”, Wandel said.
Dr Rose Mukankomeje, director teneral of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) said forests are wealth, so people have to protect them. “Rwandans benefit from the restored forests through improved food security and poverty alleviation. This is due to the role that forests play in the prevention of land degradation and protection of watersheds, which are important preconditions for improving agricultural productivity and sustainability,” she remarked
The achievements of Rwanda in forest management, Mukankomeje said, were made possible by an increase in the budget allocated to it by approximately US$ 1million between 2004 and 2010, which was largely spent on reforestation programs.
As an example of the positive impact of this policy, Mukankomeje citedthe greening of the previously degraded Bugesera region. She also mentioned the Gishwati area conservation program initiated in 2007, which has increased its forest reserve by 67%, benefiting the chimpanzee population.
“The conservation of national parks has direct economic benefits, as tourism makes a large contribution to GDP,” said Mukankomeje.
Present at the workshop are MPS from Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, DR Congo, Ghana and South Africa as well as local forest experts. Participants will have time for field visit to see for themselves how Rwanda has managed its forests.
The workshop produced and spread practical toolkit for legislators with all the information they need to advance forest policy within their own political process.