World Environment Day 2012 Involving Local Communities In Sustainable Land Management
Villagers sat on a hillside in Giti Sector, Gicumbi District, waiting for the arrival of local leaders, the Rwanda Environment Management Agency (REMA), and UNDP staff. As part of the celebration around the 2012 World Environment Day, UNDP conducted a field visit of one of the successful projects in the environment portfolio. The main objective of the visit was to witness the impact of Decentralization and Environment Management Project (DEMP) on the lives of the local community and document the achievements and challenges they face with the implementation of the project.
Rwanda is a small, land-locked and densely populated country. Consequently, land resources are scarce and have to be protected and used sustainably. The DEMP project is based on the principle that local communities can protect and sustainably use these resources if they are directly involved in the planning and decision-making processes. The project was launched in 2004 and due to its success it was scaled up and extended for an additional five years until 2013.
The project is technically and financially supported by UNDP and implemented by REMA. It was initially launched in six districts of the Western Province and subsequently the project was expanded to all 30 districts of Rwanda during the second phase of the project.
The primary objective of the second phase of DEMP is to combat land degradation by protecting the shoreline of Lake Muhazi and by training local communities on how to create terraces in order to protect their land from soil erosion.
Ms. Alphonsine Ntabana, the REMA National Coordinator of the project explained that best practices from the previous phase of the project in the Lake Kivu area are currently being implemented around Lake Muhazi.
In terms of the economic impact, in Gicumbi District alone, DEMP employs 1,200 beneficiaries, including a number of women as contractors in Gicumbi sector. The beneficiaries are trained on how to create and maintain terraces to protect their land from degrading.
In the process, they gain an income of approximately 2 US$ per day, which helps them support their households until the first harvest arrives. One of the women beneficiaries said that she has been able to buy a goat with her income, and another woman who started with the project said that her income has enabled her to build a house with steel metal roofing. The villagers also revealed that their potato production had increased dynamically ever since the creation of the progressive terraces.
As a result of the project’s activities, the lake’s shoreline is protected from soil erosion through the plantation of bamboo trees creating a 50 meter buffer zone between the lake and the land. Involving the beneficiaries in building progressive terraces has not only allowed them to be trained on sustainable land management and gain an income for their households, but this has also given them an opportunity to partake in their local development. “If there was an opening to train another rural community on creating progressive terraces, one of you would be chosen to go. There have been multiple gains from this project, and one of them will be the increase of your production when the rain comes back” concluded Ms. Alphonsine Ntabana, the National Project Coordinator.