APRECO

Agroforestry for the Protection of Rainforest Ecosystems - APRECO

 

With the Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda has the largest cloud forest in East Africa with numerous species that can only be found in Rwanda or on the Central African Rift. At the same time, the pressure of use is very high in this extremely densely populated country with more than 400 inhabitants/km². Moreover, Rwanda's population is growing by 2.8 % p.a. and almost 90 percent live from subsistence agriculture. The farmland, which is usually only fractions of a hectare, is cultivated permanently but without appropriate intensification measures, so that soil fertility is rapidly degraded by soil erosion, nutrient deprivation and leaching. Wherever possible, new territory has been developed in the past to compensate for declining yields per hectare. The conservation of biodiversity and the geo-ecological functions of forests (CO2 sink, water retention and decentralised flood protection, evapotranspiration and thus maintenance of the small water cycle, which is very important for precipitation in the neighbouring cultivated land) is impossible under these conditions; rather, it requires a sustainable intensification of agricultural and forestry production in the peripheral zones.

The project works in the district of Nyaruguru, the southern of the two districts of Rwanda's southern province, which are bordering on the cloud forest Nyungwe. The district covers an area of 1010 km² and consists of 14 sectors and 332 villages; the project work focuses on the four sectors directly adjacent to the cloud forest without excluding the others. The project works with three German and a total of 15 Rwandan employees.

In the villages, the population is first made aware of the problems resulting from current land use methods, such as soil degradation, erosion and overexploitation of (commercial) forest resources. Small farmers incorporated in associations and cooperatives are advised by agricultural consultants employed in the project in a participatory process on the conversion of their farms to ecologically sustainable agriculture and forestry (agroforestry). Consultation takes place on specially created demonstration fields and in the context of visits by agricultural consultants to the areas cultivated jointly by the cooperatives and associations.

In each sector, several tree nurseries are established in which the trees necessary for conversion to agroforestry (in particular native species such as Polyscias fulva, Maesopsis eminii, Entandrophragma excelsum and Croton megalocarpus) and shrubs (in particular nitrogen-fixing legume shrubs such as Calliandra calothyrsus, Tephrosia vogelii and Leucaena leucocephala) are grown in large numbers. The aim is to produce 1.4 million trees and shrubs per year.

Together with the farmers' associations that want to convert their farms to ecologically sustainable agriculture and forestry, an agroforestry protection belt is being created in the peripheral zone of the Nyungwe Forest, which is to reduce the pressure of use on the adjacent forest through integrated wood production on the agricultural land. However, the project activities are not restricted to the edge of the forest alone, but also extend to more distant, densely populated parts of Rwanda's central plateau. Where the forest is surrounded by a forest border or tea plantations, the project works in the area adjacent to this border. The aim is to produce both valuable wood and fast-growing firewood (through the use of species that are suitable for coppicing). At the same time, the areas are protected from surface runoff and soil erosion by planting legume hedges parallel to the contour lines.

The project involves the relevant Rwandan authorities, the park administration and the staff of the local administration of the project region in the planning and implementation of measures. This - and the training of agricultural consultants employed in the project and in the sectors cooperating with the project - will contribute to capacity building and ensure the continuation of the measures after the end of the project.

Pupils in primary and secondary schools should be sensitised to the value and ecological landscape functions of forests through lessons in the fields of "resource protection" and "agroforestry" and learn from an early age about sustainable, ecologically adapted cultivation methods in theory and especially in practice ("learning by doing": creation of school gardens and nurseries, compost preparation, joint tree planting campaigns, etc.).

Students from the National University of Rwanda in Butare (today: University of Rwanda), as well as other universities in Rwanda and Germany are to be given the opportunity to learn about ecologically adapted land use methods in practice and to participate in the sustainable transformation of Rwanda's cultural landscape, particularly through internships and theses financially supported by the project.

The project received a total support of 1.6 Million Euro by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) within the framework of the International Climate Initiative based on a decision of the German Bundestag.

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