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Rwanda seeks to reduce charcoal usage to save forests

KIGALI (Xinhua) -- Rwanda targets to decrease the use of charcoal and fire wood by 2018, in an effort to help protect the country’s forest cover and avert disastrous effects of climate change, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has said.

Coletha Ruhamya, director general, REMA told reporters on Wednesday that local technology initiatives in line with efficient cooking stoves will be identified and introduced to Rwandans in the framework of the government’s policy to reduce wood fuel and emissions.

“We are targeting to see 27 percent of Rwandans in urban centers use improved cooking stoves in bid to reduce the use of charcoal and fuel wood by 2018,” she added.

Many households across rural Rwanda look to forests as a source of income, cutting down trees to supply growing markets for charcoal and timber, however Ruhamya urged them to embrace sustainable charcoal production to protect the country’s forest cover.

“If we are to protect our environment, we must accord high priority to forest conservation while subsidizing households to use alternative energy sources,” she said.

Last year, Rwanda launched a campaign to enhance forest cover by planting more than 23 million of trees in one year in a bid to help the country fight climate change.

The campaign dubbed; “Forests, the Source of Clean Air” will see millions of trees planted on most degraded lands and forests, and continue to improve existing forest across the country.

Rwanda targets to have a forest cover of 30 percent by 2018, a goal that is likely to be achieved earlier given that, presently, forest cover is at 29.6 percent of the nation, according to the ministry of natural resources.

The small central African country has also committed to restore two million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2020.

More than 700 million hectares of land are ripe for restoration in Africa, according to analysis by World Resources Institute and International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Rwanda’s ambitious forest restoration plan is in line with the Bonn Challenge, a global ambition to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. It was launched by world leaders at a ministerial roundtable in Bonn, Germany, in September 2011.

It is estimated that over 1.6 billion people globally rely on benefits that forests offer, including food; unfortunately, an estimated 13 million hectares of forests, for instance, were lost each year between 2000 and 2010 due to deforestation.

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