An Environment-Friendly Pilot Village to Revolutionize National Environment Protection and Poverty Reduction
Rubaya, March 14th, 2012 – In 2010, it all seemed surreal to 26 year-old Muhawenimana Solange, when her siblings and herself were offered to be housed in the newly established 1st Pilot Village of the Poverty and Environment Initiative. Two years on, the life of Solange and her siblings has taken on a drastic optimistic turn.
Solange is an orphan with six siblings in her care. Both their parents were victims of the 1994 Tutsi Genocide, which has forced them to live in an orphanage and then with relatives, before living together in 2005. When Villagers from Rubaya chose Solange, her siblings and other vulnerable villagers from the area to be housed by the PEI demonstration project, her meager income from her temporary jobs was not enough to afford education, support her siblings financially, and take care of the repair work of their house’s rooftop which was about to fall inside, when they moved out.
Rubaya’s PEI Pilot Village Demonstration Project, launched in 2011 by H.E. President Kagame, is a revolutionary programme thought of by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and supported by the Poverty and Environment Initiative (PEI), funded by UNDP and UNEP. In an effort to showcase that environment and poverty issues are interlinked, REMA and PEI selected Rubaya Cell in Gicumbi District, Northern Rwanda to be the scene of the pilot village demonstration project. This area was chosen as it is considered to be among the most environmentally fragile parts of Rwanda.
According to REMA, the poverty challenges faced by the population in this area before the demonstration project, as identified by the Gicumbi District Development Plan, were numerous: 1) Over-cultivation of land for agriculture and inadequate soil conservation leading to low and declining productivity; 2) Destruction of wetlands; 3) Fading size of arable and pasture land, resulting in low agricultural and livestock production; 4) Inadequate application of integrate land and soil management techniques, including low practice of agro-forestry; 5) Absence of water harvesting measures and low application of irrigated agriculture; and 6) Inadequate opportunities for income generation. In addition to the listed challenges, the area has experienced unplanned human settlement, and most people in the area live in fragile landscapes, comprised of steep hills and valleys, which puts pressure on the ecosystem and makes it harder for villagers to fetch for water.
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The Pilot Village of Kabeza in Rubaya Cell was built in order to bring solutions to the challenges listed above as well as to address MDGs 1 and 7. Today the village has been successful in overcoming most of the challenges and it is also home to 43 families, a total of 196 people. At their arrival, each family received a house comprising all the necessary facilities, and a high breed Holstein-Friesian cow to provide for milk. Fifteen water reservoirs have been constructed to recuperate running water from heavy rains seasons, which characterize the area, to be used by the villagers for irrigation. Water harvesting tanks have been constructed to recuperate and clean rain water, and bring clean water to the villagers and people from the area. Villagers have been trained on using the 43 cows’ dung in producing biogas energy, which is used by them for cooking. The waste from biogas digesters and households is then used to produce fertilizers. The village has also been provided with solar energy for households lighting needs. The neighboring villagers have been taught to make radical terracing to save their land from erosion. The village also has a Cooperative called Imparirwagusumbwa which manages the operations of the biogas digesters, water tanks and the selling of the extra milk from the cows on the market.
Solange today is a happier young woman. She is the president of the cooperative and the focal point of REMA in the village. She has been able to continue her education and currently follows weekend courses in Management at the University of Byumba. “Before I came to live in the village, I was distressed by the fact of not being able to afford a solid shelter to house my siblings and I was lonely with no close people to confide in … today, I not only have a nice house to come to, I have neighbors to talk to, I have clean water at close distance, I have biogas to cook, milk and lighting for my siblings to be able to study in the evenings and I go to university” says jovial Solange when asked about the changes the village has brought to her life.
When the Poverty and Environment Initiative (PEI) was launched in 2005, its aim was to ensure that environment was integrated into Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, which has been done to a highly satisfactory degree. Owing to the success of the two first phases of the PEI project, the Government of Rwanda and One UN have decided to extend the project for an extra year from 2012 to 2013.