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Rwanda - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Examples of the main negative changes that have occurred or are occurring in regard to biodiversity in Rwanda include: the conversion of Karama savannah natural forest, covering an estimated area of 1,000 ha, into farmland, land for grazing and for other economic activities; the massive logging of the Nyungwe buffer zone forest for charcoal and timber production (11,000 ha of the plantations are being exploited by the New Forest Company for poles); degradation of the Mukura forest reserve due to mining exploitation; invasion of water hyacinth in lakes, including the lakes of Bugesera, Gisaka, Nasho, and other water bodies, especially in the Nyabarongo-Akagera river system and the Akagera wetland complex; the decrease or extirpation of native fish species in the lakes of the Nyabarongo-Akagera river system due to the invasion and increase of predator species, among which are Protopterus aethiopicus and Clarias gariepinus, with the most threatened species being Barbus kerstenii, Clarias liocephalus, Mastacembelus frenatus and Oreochromis macrochir; drying of water bodies (small lakes) at the summit of the mountains of the volcanoes in Volcanoes National Park; the altitudinal upward migration of species distribution due to the effects of climate change; and the underutilization and disappearance of landraces and local breeds due to a policy on crop intensification favoring high-yield varieties and races.

Positive changes include:

• The efforts to conduct ecosystem services valuation which have started with Nyungwe Forest. The value of ecological goods and services of the latter was estimated at a minimum of US$ 285 million a year.

• The ongoing rehabilitation of the Gishwati forest reserve; flood control in the degraded Gishwati forest due to rehabilitation efforts; the Total Economic Valuation of Mukura Forest was conducted and the monetary value of this forest was estimated at a total of FRW 1,150,649,800 (US$ 1,692,132); the economic valuation of Mukura Forest led to the adoption of the Law establishing Gishwati-Mukura National Park by the Cabinet of Ministers.

• The increase in the number of primate troops and ungulate populations in Akagera National Park from 1998 to date as well as in the number of the mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains from 1971 to date.

• The removal of invasive species, such as water hyacinth, in the lakes of Cyohoha North and Rweru has started and shows good results; in order to minimize the genetic erosion.

• The operationalization of the national gene bank that will contribute to the conservation of neglected landraces and local breeds.

National protected areas (national parks and reserves) provide a large number of goods and services that are contributing to the growth of the national economy as well as to improving the welfare of the people. Concentrated in protected areas, particularly in national parks, the tourism sector is estimated to have generated USD 293.6 million in 2013. In 2010 and 2011, the number of employees in the tourism sector was estimated at 23,000, with many more sectors benefiting indirectly from tourism (e.g. restaurants, transportation services, retail trade). In 2013, the Government of Rwanda, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, developed the Rwanda Protected Areas Concessions Management Policy to attract private-sector investments in tourism based in protected areas. Rwanda has currently positioned itself as a high-end tourist destination, especially in regard to the Volcanoes National Park which is home to the mountain gorillas. The park offers also several non-timber forest products (NTFP), including honey, produced by the local people.

Local communities around Akagera National Park are fully engaged in restoring Akagera lakes through the removal of alien/invasive species (Water Hyacinth). The new management company for Akagera National Park employs local persons in various types of work and has injected over USD $ 260,000 in the local economy. The Revenue Sharing Program initiated by the country has shown great success to the population living around national protected areas, providing positive incentives for biodiversity conservation and improving local communities’ livelihoods.

Agro-biodiversity is also an important sector to Rwanda’s economy, having contributed 33% to the GDP in 2013.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

Over the years, biodiversity has been subjected to various threats causing loss to species richness, population size and ecosystem degradation. The main threats include: poaching, boundary encroachment, fires, alien invasive species, predation, deforestation, illegal mining, illegal grazing, human-wildlife conflict, damming, drops in water levels, poisoning of fish and lion, commercial fishing, lack of proper regulations, infrastructure development, water extraction, plant extraction, drainage of wetlands outside parks, plant and animal diseases transmissible from livestock to wildlife, lack of connectivity, climate change, etc.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Rwanda developed its first NBSAP in 2003 after identifying the major threats to biodiversity conservation. The document targeted the following five major outcomes: i) improved conservation of protected areas and wetlands; ii) sustainable use of the biodiversity of natural ecosystems and agro-systems; iii) rational use of biotechnology; iv) development and strengthening of policy, institutional, legal and human resource frameworks; and v) the equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biological resources. A good number of activities have been successfully achieved for each of the five outcomes as outlined throughout this text. Implementation gaps that remain have been identified as: inefficient coordination of activities due to a lack of key permanent staff to manage and monitor the overall program; insufficient technical capacity; insufficient linkage with other international instruments; conflicting priorities based on institutional mandates; lack of new and appropriate financing mechanisms; weak mobilization and coordination of donors; absence of both an established benefit-sharing mechanism in agro-ecosystems production and the initiation of new and stimulating incentives to protect agro-biodiversity.

The revision and updating of the NBSAP has been completed however its adoption is pending. Rwanda has developed 19 national targets which are aligned to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

It is reported in Rwanda’s fifth national report dated March 2014 that Aichi Biodiversity Targets 11 and 17 have been fully achieved; advanced progress has been achieved in regard to Targets 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 14, 15 and 19, while low achievement is registered in regard to Targets 2, 6, 8, 9, 13, 16 and 18.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Rwanda adopted a Biodiversity Policy in 2011 and a Biodiversity Law in 2013. In addition, a number of new key policies, laws and strategies have been adopted, including the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) II (2013-2018), National Climate Change and Low Carbon Development Strategy (2011), Rwanda Wildlife Policy (2013), Rwanda Protected Areas Concessions Management Policy (2013), National Forestry Policy (2010), National Policy for Water Resources Management (2011), National Energy Policy and National Energy Strategy (2008-2012), National Industrial Policy (2011), Forestry Law (2013), Protected Areas Law (2013), New Land Law (2013), Law establishing the Rwanda National Climate and Environment Fund (FONERWA) (2012), Law establishing Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (2011), Decrees for the protection of biodiversity, Payment of Ecosystems Services (PES) regulatory framework preparation, etc.

Regarding the rational use of biotechnology, the following instruments have been developed (with their adoption pending): National Biosafety Framework, including the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy, the National Biosafety Bill and related institutional framework.

Rwanda’s institutional framework for implementing the Convention has been strengthened through the establishment of the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA), Rwanda National Climate and Environment Fund (FONERWA), CBD Steering Committee, and the Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resources Management.

Rwanda has ratified the Nagoya Protocol and is on track to develop an enabling legal and institutional framework for the implementation of the Protocol.

Capacity-building efforts to increase communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) have been implemented through, among other means, newsletters and television and radio broadcasting. Rwanda has also established a National CHM.

A process on genetic resources valuation is ongoing.

In regard to mainstreaming, ‘Rwanda Vision 2020’ provides guidance for the development of overall national policies, regulations, strategies and programmes, including those related to biodiversity conservation, with a view to ensuring sustainable development. The country also promotes a Sector Wide Approach (SWAP) for mainstreaming environmental (including biodiversity) sustainability into all development processes. Furthermore, the Green Economy Approach is one of the priorities of the Second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy. Since 2006, synergies have been identified in regard to projects related to implementing the 3 Rio Conventions (UNFCCC, CBD, UNCCD).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

A comprehensive system for monitoring and reviewing implementation does not exist at present in Rwanda. This issue is however addressed by Rwanda’s National Target 18 which states that: “By 2020, knowledge in biodiversity status, values, causes and consequences of biodiversity loss, is enhanced, shared across the country and reflected in the implementation of the NBSAP”, which has been mapped to achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 19.

In order to address the issue of monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the NBSAP, it has been decided to create the Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resources Management (CoE). The Centre has been established with the mandate of coordinating and monitoring all activities relevant to biodiversity conservation and management.

The National Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resource Management will be on the front line to coordinate, oversee and monitor the cross-sectoral implementation of the NBSAP, through collaborative and partnership mechanisms with different stakeholders.

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  • United Nations Environment Programme