Rwinkwavu Hills, Victim of Deforestation
Not far from Akagera National Park, in eastern Rwanda nearby Tanzanian coast lies Rwinkwavu sector. While passing there you can clearly see the naked red dirt hills, the view is free.
Back in time, Rwinkwavu used to be a natural forest but with time people started to populate it and cut the forest down to make charcoal and farm, which left Rwinkwavu hills naked.
Rurangirwa, a longtime resident, says that Rwinkwavu was not populated because it was part of Akagera, but then people started to live there and cut down trees to make charcoal and firewood without planting others. That’s how Rwinkwavu’s hills became so naked.
Like the rest of Kayonza District, the area consists of Rwinkwavu hills and slopes at an altitude between 1400m and 1600m. The relief is characterized by broad peaks and plateaus in the hills but gentle slopes to the east where there are some steep slopes and it is generally stony.
According to a local elder, Ladislas Kanyandekwe, Rwinkwavu used to be a forest with several small animals such as rabbits, gazelles and so many others. As the population was grew they were hunted down and it became farming area.
“This area used to be a forest; none would have imagined the way it is today, without trees, just these naked hills,” said Kanyandekwe.
There’s another contributor
The Executive Secretary of Rwinkwavu Sector, Claude Murekezi, says that Rwinkwavu is a mining area, so that mines if not well handled contribute to the deforestation by destroying lands and those lands are taken by erosion when it rains.
“We are in talks with miners so that they do professional mining with technology, without destroying the land and leave it to be transported by erosion when it rains.”
He adds that by doing that, miners are becoming their partners in renewing the hills of Rwinkwavu by planting trees at old mines that are no longer in use.
Deforestation in way to be dealt with
Murekezi says that together with partners, they have started to implement their plan of planting trees to make their hills covered again.
“We are mobilizing residents to plant consumable trees that can be mixed with crops and can bring them money because fruits are sold and are needed to the market,” he said.
“Our plan is to move from planting trees that are to produce woods and plant fruits trees; except on hills where we will plant Cyprus and eucalyptus, elsewhere we will plant fruits trees, even on roads,” he added.
Murekezi says Rwinkwavu authorities have a one to two year plan to plant trees throughout the sector. After that they will keep following up to make sure trees are growing well until the area will be green like the past Rwinkwavu’s elder residents remember.