By Elias Hakizimana.
When New Forests Company (NFC) started its works in Rwanda in 2012 with an investment of $2,5 million (about Rwf2 billion) for machinery in a factory to add value to forest products through processing electrical poles and timbers, it was not clear whether it could make profit.
Some did not realise the benefits that come with conserving natural forests and preserving ecosystems. Indeed, forests offer ample opportunities for biodiversity conservation.
They did not know that in addition to the good air we breathe to enjoy healthy lives — oxygen —, water from natural rivers, streams or brooks slithering through forests, we can also get quality and worthy products from just caving the trunks of the forest trees.
Indeed, there is untapped potential in the management of Rwanda’s forests.
NFC makes modern furniture and interior home materials from timbers.
This company is among the private investors in forestry in Rwanda that is leading the sector with smart automated and computerised system to dry and produce timbers as well as advanced technology to make tough electrical poles.
The firm has created jobs for 200 Rwandans according to Alex Madinga, Poles Business Manager at NFC.
The company exploits 3,600 hactares of Nyungwe buffer zone to plant their own trees.
“Our company caters for environment conservation and helps the community to survive. We created 200 jobs and we do support neighbouring citizens in some projects to develop their community,” said Madinga.
Addressing the issue of pole imports
The factory produces 120,000 poles per year and is motivated to support Made in Rwanda policy.
About 45,000 of produced poles are bought by Rwanda Energy Group (REG) and the rest goes to other clients.
“[Befores the establishment of the factory], we struggled to import poles that also came late. We target to satisfy local markets,” said Madinga.
To ensure sustainability of the factory, at the same time nurturing nature, it has so far planted 150 hectares of forests for future constant supply of raw materials.
It also has many tree nurseries for seedlings.
“In 2017, we established out-grower programme where we buy tree seedlings and give them to interested farmers to plant so as to prepare enough trees in next 10 years,” Madinga added.
“There is massive of opportunities in this business here in Rwanda, we do also export poles to Tanzania,” Madinga noted.
When forest derived products improve community’s livelihoods
Jeannette Uwera, 20, is a beneficiary of Masaka business incubation center that grows and process bamboo trees into tables, beds, flour pots, curtains and carpets, clothes and furniture.
Started in 2016 with the factory, the 20-year old had dropped out of school in senior three of secondary school due to poverty. But she later fortunately got free training and a job in the center where she is weaving bamboo baskets.
She told The Inspirer that this job plays a big role for her life. “I managed to get many things as I get a monthly salary after getting free training from bamboo basket weaving, I managed to buy small domestic animals, such as hens, goats and rabbits which I hope will help me change life, I dropped out of school in senior three of secondary school due to lack of financial capacity of my parents but I believe with this occupation life will be good, “Uwera said.
Masaka Business Incubation Center that was initiated by Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in 2011 and is managed by district after restructuring by the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) in 2015.
Huang Daizhong, Manager of Bambou China-Aid Rwanda project within the Masaka Business Incubation Center said that bamboo forests have vital role in different perspectives such as combating erosion and climate change adaptation. He said Bamboo forests are over 30 percent crucial than other trees towards climate change resolutions.
“Bamboo give yield in only three to four years and is much reproductive, good for environment,” said Huang.
Many citizens like Uwera benefited from the center as of now 200 people were trained and got jobs. The center is able to train 30 to 40 people in every three months.
Augustin Mihigo, Bamboo production and NTFPS Specialist in Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority (RWAFA) said the country needs to satisfy the local markets with maid in Bamboo as they will increase production. Currently, Nyungwe natural forests host over 4000 ha of Bamboo trees. Last year, Artificial Bamboo trees were planted on the area between 500 and 600 ha according to Mihigo.
Bamboo forests is the project of the Government of Rwanda initiated to change lives of Rwandans. Its first phase that costs Rwf10 million will end by 2019, according to information from RWAFA.
The recent study dubbed “BEST” shown that forestry and trade constitute 5 % of national Gross Domestic Products (GDP), that means the sector has potentials in socio-economic development and vital for income generation.
According to the Baseline Study by Forest Ecosystem Services of January 2018, the plantation forests delivered the greatest overall annual benefits (108,643 million Rwf); most of which were from subsistence consumption of raw materials and food.
Nyungwe NP delivered Rwf25,122 million worth of services; most of which was due to water regulation (Rwf12,594 million) and climate regulation (Rwf3,679 million). The Volcanoes NP is also highly valued (Rwf10,908 million), largely due to tourism (Rwf8,485 million).
Dismas Bakundukize, Director of Forest Management Unity in Rwanda Water and Forest Authority (RWAFA) said that the role of private sector in forest investments is important and varied.
He said that these investors include forest owners who can sell them and get money, sell trees, charcoals and fire woods.
“There are other factories like tea factories that make produce using firewoods, these also have a big role in preserving forests on behalf of their business that requires fire woods every day. Others can also cut forests to produce electrical poles, timbers which all play a role to the national socio-economic development,” said Bakundukize.
The existence of people who live on forestry apart from agriculture, according to Bakundukize, is a good example for others to join such activities.
SORWATHE, a local company that process tea in Nyamagabe district uses 3 hectares of forest to produce 1 tonne of tea, the scenario that requires them to preserve and plant more trees.
Pierre Claver Hakuzimana, Head of Forestry in SORWATHE explained that the factory has 515 hectares of forest they use for producing tea since 15 years ago.
To keep having trees for use, he explained that they do not cut all the tress at once, rather they start from a small part and return on it later when it has recovered new big trees.
This requires planting high productivity species according to Manik Weerasinshe, Director of Plantation in SORWATHE.
“We are planning to plant new species of trees for fire wood,”. Manik said.
Bakundukize said that the big part of forest has to be managed by the private sector to ensure its sustainability.
The natural forests include big trees that gives fire woods, timbers and other products, while the artificial one needs technology and technological tools needed for value adding.
As he said, big buildings, timber production, port building as well as cooking pushed the efforts to import fast growing tree species. These are like Eucalyptus, Greveria and more.
The government targets to plant 30 percent of forests by 2020 as currently this is at 29.8%.
According to Emmanuel Uwizeye, Director of forest Conservation and Development in the Ministry of Land and Forestry (MINILAF), these potentials would last longer as the guiding principles of national forest policy are respected.
This constitutes land deforestation and restoration management, sustainable forest management, Biodiversity conservation to sustain touristic trees, medicinal trees and animal feeds.
Uwizeye said that they need to help people get extra capacity to find food and stop activities that destroy forests. “We plan increase capacity for them through training in agriculture and livestock so that they cater for Biodiversity and environment instead of deforesting trees.
Elias Hakizimana @theinspirerpubl
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