The ongoing rehabilitation of the 169 hectors of Ibanda-Makera forest is expected to cost around Rwf 400 million in the next four years, after the forest was highly degraded by neighboring residents, who slashed the forest’s total area through heavy grazing and deforestation.
Fabrice Mugabo, the National Coordinator of National Adaption Planning (NAP) an offshoot program of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), which is overseeing the rehabilitation of Ibanda-Makera forest together with other degraded environments, has said that the forest will be rehabilitated through reforestation and rounding its boundaries to separate it from residentials’ activities.
Mugabo acknowledged that the sustainable way to maintain the rehabilitation is through helping neighboring residents by reducing their reliance on the forest.
“We will help neighboring residents to shift their dependance from the forest resources to other activities in order to prevent them from re-entering the forest again. We will help them to plant fruits trees in their fields and to do other development activities, including beekeeping.” Said Mugabo.
Ibanda-Makera forest is closer to Akagera National Park and is said to have sheltered animals including leopards and buffalos. However, as the settlement approached the boundary of the forest in early 1980s, residents turned it into their fields and grazing space, shrinking its volume and depleting its biodiversity, according to Ananias Rugina, 62 years old man who neighbored the forest for four decades.
After extensive campaigning, residents of the neighboring areas have committed to support the efforts of restoring the forest because of their improved understanding of its importance to their daily life.
“We are responsible to maintain and protect the biodiversity of the forest because of its role in bringing us clean air and constant rainfall.” Said Clementine Nikuze, a resident of Mpongo sector of Kirehe district.
The ongoing rehabilitation of Ibanda-Mukera forest is implemented by REMA through NAP program which also extends its reach to other environmentally-constrained bodies like rivers, in areas of Rusizi and Nyagatare district. Once fully recovered, according to Mugabo, the long-term plan for the forest will be to transfer it under the management of Rwanda Development Board, which will then access the potentiality of the forest to be turned into a national park.