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Rwanda on the Quest to Promote Conservation Leadership

By: Nehemie

Indeed, Rwanda is a small country and perhaps this is why it is able to implement most of its policies successfully. There’s a lot that has been done in terms of life improvement for the current approx. 13 million Rwandans despite hardships in coping with the highly increasing population on a piece of land of only 26,338 sq km.

Being among a few countries in the world able to manage the ban of nonbiodegradable plastic packages since 2008 as well as being the only country in the world to have its citizens participate in the monthly Umuganda, Rwanda has defined what conservation leadership really means. Although climate change still exacerbates agricultural losses and pollution is striking the currently congested transport system, this country seems to have a promising future that is based on a green economy fueled by conservation leaders who are now in the making.

First off, Rwanda’s nickname replicates conservation in itself by being associated with one of the most important environmental figures: mountains. It’s not clear who called Rwanda a country of 1000 hills, but you start to see this as soon as you land here. Even the local inhabitants like me don’t stop to be surprised by the fact that every place in Rwanda is hilly. Rolling mountains are a common thing that people, animals, and automobiles have gotten used to.

These hills, as many and high as they can be, hold big amounts of forests- although they have decreased due to massive deforestation- on top of them and water sources (aka streams) beneath and between them. It is on the mountain tops where you find most wind blows, the cleanest air, and the  least noises. Mount Jali, Mount Rebero and Mount Kigali- all surrounding the Kigali City- are among the relaxing, breathtaking destinations. Volcanoes in the North and the Congo-Nile trail of mountains in the West play a big role in Rwanda’s conservation leadership through tourism and educational field trips.

I’ve personally had a chance to experience Rwanda’s greenery – 27 years now- and have found it truly remarkable. Yes, it is in this tropical region where a number of diseases and poverty cases appear- in comparison to the temperate regions of developed countries- but it is also where freshness and naturality of life remains. Don’t be surprised to know that Rwanda is one of the coolest and greenest places in the world. Even Forbes magazine confirms this.

Apart from its geologically conserved nature, Rwanda has attracted many local and international conservation interventions including African Leadership University [ALU] and Rwanda Institute of Conservation Agriculture [RICA] that develop conservation leaders through Higher Education in Wildlife management and Agriculture. On top of the University of Rwanda-College of Agriculture-my former college- more opportunities are rising . Kitabi Eco-Center is a new, fast-growing avenue to note that is now developing interesting models around tourism, organic farming, culture and traditional medicine in the Nyungwe National Park.

Of course one cannot skip the Rwanda environmental museum, probably the only environmental museum in Africa, which highlights the past, present and the future of energy, wildlife conservation, medicinal plants, as well as mineral extraction in the country. Interestingly, these facilities are dispersed throughout the country in the North, West, Central Kigali, and the South. There is quite a lot to mention but the main point here is that there is a visible trajectory towards sustainability in Rwanda that we should all celebrate as world’s citizens.

Inasmuch as I’m pursuing the conservation track for the next years of my life, there are many reasons to be proud of being part of this nation. Here is a summary of a few ways that Rwanda is leading green growth, giving us hope that we can all learn from Rwandans as we struggle to create a climate change-free planet. If Rwanda can do it, then we can all do it.