Rwanda: A Closer Look At Cyamudongo Forest and Its Role in Mitigating Climate Change

Cyamudongo forest is small and fragmented-only 19 square kilometres of Nyungwe national park and it is located in the Southwest of Rwanda.

Its vegetation is very thick and dark, home to over 30 species of chimpanzees and is unique for sheltering some endemic species of plants that are not found in Nyungwe national park like Orchid Polystachia blue chertiae which was discovered over 10 years ago.

The forest is among protected areas that have been restored in Rwanda and are playing a big role in mitigating climate change effects and building resilience to its effects, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, the Minister for Environment said.

She was speaking during a dialogue on ‘climate Change and the Biodiversity Nexus’ at the recently concluded Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC).

Much effort has been spent to improve the condition of protected and conserved areas, for instance, restoring critical habitats that include Volcanoes national park, Akagera national park, Lake Kivu, Cyamudongo forest, and Gishwati-Mukura national park and its landscape.

Protected areas help maintain and adapt to climate change; opportunities range from safeguarding biodiversity, preventing the spread of diseases, providing local economic success, enhancing climate resilience, food and water security as well as ensuring ecosystem services, Mujawamariya said, highlighting the role of Cyamudongo forest.

Apparently, the forest survived because the community would not farm on steep mountains and it is now surrounded by tea plantations and eucalyptus trees.

Before being fragmented, Cyamudongo forest was connected to Nyungwe national park and after deforestation and poaching, the forest remained isolated.

Although it is still isolated from Nyungwe national park, it is still part of it according to officials.

The Nyungwe national park, which was once connected to Cyamudongo forest, is valued at US$4.8 billion.

The park feeds two of the world’s largest rivers, the Congo and the Nile, and provides 70 per cent of the country’s freshwater.

The park is also a regional biodiversity hotspot, supporting 1,068 recorded plant species, 322 bird species, 75 known mammal species and 13 different primate species.

Protected areas as drivers of carbon finance

“Our protected areas contain significant extent of carbon rich soils, peatlands and play a great role when it comes to carbon sequestration,” Mujawamariya noted.

She said that protected areas do not only play in building people’s resilience to climate change but also can be a driver of carbon finance.

Juliet Kabera, the Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), recently told The New Times that Rwanda is setting up a taskforce to work on Rwanda’s carbon market.

“There are corporations that have businesses which pollute the atmosphere but they can fund projects in Rwanda, for instance, that plant forests which reduce carbon emissions. Rwanda is seeking such funds through the carbon market,” she said.

She noted that a price per tonne of carbon emissions will soon be set up, adding that Rwanda will have set up a platform for selling carbon emissions ahead of The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) to be held in Egypt.

“We will set our own carbon price because we need funds for reforestation; we need funds to reduce carbon emissions from transport among others. We need to set up a carbon price in commonwealth countries,” she said, adding that the initiative will create green jobs.

Indigenous communities in conserving protected areas

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the association of Peul women and autochthonous peoples of Chad, reiterated the role of indigenous communities in conserving protected areas.

“As indigenous people, it is our way of living, always living in harmony with nature and protecting biodiversity. We act to fight climate change. We help to fight climate change with our traditional knowledge,” she said.

Talking about biodiversity and climate change nexus, David Obura, Founding Director of CORDIO East Africa, reiterated that biodiversity assists people and ecosystems to adapt to climate change.

“Actions that halt, slow or reverse biodiversity loss can help mitigate climate change. To support intact and fully functional habitats under climate change and halt biodiversity loss, around 30 to 50 of the world’s ocean and land would be effectively conserved,” he said.

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