By Ange de la victoire.
Experts say that the use of Geographic Information System is a key to sustainable management of Rwanda’s water and Forests resources.
The Government has set key priorities for the new six-year strategic plan which includes improving the productivity of water and forest resources and expanding water access to all Rwandans.
In 2017 the government created the Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority under the Law no. 06/2017 of 03/02/2017 establishing the Rwanda Water and Forest Authority and determining its mission, organization and functioning.
Apart from implementing the policies, laws, strategies and Government decisions related to the management of forests and natural water resources; RWFA also is tasked to advise Government, monitor and coordinate the implementation of strategies related to the management of forests and natural water resources among other assigned duties.
Sustainable management of Forests and Water resources are also included in Rwanda’s vision 2050 and the third Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Speaking at the opening of a workshop in Kigali in November last year, the Director General of RWFA, Prime Ngabonziza “With partner institutions and stakeholders, we will increase water availability to all Rwandans and decrease the pressure on forestry, which is suffering due to the 80% use of biomass for cooking,”
According to Vision 2020, Rwanda targets to have the 30% of the national territory to be covered by Forests which stands 29, 6% as of November 2017 statistics shows.
The Rwanda Forestry subsector aims to ensure sustainable forest management across the country while the water sector eyes to strengthening water governance at catchment, national and trans-boundary levels.
Kaspar Kundert, the Executive Director of ESRI Rwanda Ltd said “GIS is a special tool for spatial planning needed in catchment process.”
He was speaking at the Annual IWRM conference convened March 2018 in Kigali where ESRI Rwanda introduced to participants the GIS platforms for spatial planning and its possible contribution to the management of Forests and Water resources.
ESRI has been supporting GIS projects in Rwanda for many years, partnering with various ministries, the National University of Rwanda (NUR), and the former Kigali Institute of Technology (KIST) which is now the College of Science and Technology of University of Rwanda.
In an interview at the sideline of the 2018 annual IWRM which was hosted by the Ministry of Environment through Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority, Kaspar Kundert said “As Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority is working on catchments planning, it is a good idea to include the GIS tool to collect geographic information which will help to make better decision in forest and water management activities.”
The evolution of GIS, the Global Positioning System (GPS), and Remote Sensing (RS) technologies has enabled the collection and analysis of field data in ways that were not possible before the arrival of computers.
However, Kaspar Kundert says “A lot of data collected using GIS are not accessible to public.”
“Most of information is kept in computers with limited access while many people outside need it for instance university students who are working on their academic papers.” He adds.
In September 2017, a group of GIS experts from various institutions met in Kigali to share experiences and agreed that a common policy on data sharing in the country is required to ease access to available data.
According to Giress Kapenda, a Kigali based GIS expert and Water monitoring Engineer, the problem of data sharing exist though some changes are expected to be done to ease the access.
“We are trying to improve the backup system. We think we will have an online sharing system very soon” He says.
“At the end of last year 2017 we had a workshop with different institutions to see how to save and share them on a shared online server in Rwanda. It is an initiative of Water for Growth and the Department of Water Resources management of Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority. Different institutions are interested but it requires a lot of effort and an institution to handle that. It also requires a Memorandum of Understanding” Kapenda told this website on Tuesday.
He also revealed that there is a request made to the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) to support this initiative.
On the other side, Kundert said that like they have done with many institutions in Rwanda, the ESRI is also ready to partner with RWFA and partner institutions in this process.
Forest and water resources management in today’s ever changing world is becoming more complex and demanding to managers.
GIS is suggested as a potential means of dealing with this complexity.
Among others, the GIS helps in land cover and land use, landscape rehabilitation, landscape restoration, in the production of different maps, to do some statistics, in hydrological calculation, in modelling or simulation, etc.