Private sector investors move in on Rwanda’s forest industry

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Highlighting the growth in forestry investment across the globe, the government of Rwanda has called upon private investors to consider the myriad investment opportunities in the country’s forestry sector.

During a recent discussion held with the private sector over the government’s bid to increase investment in the country’s forests, Dr Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Natural Resources, confirmed that the country’s forest industry was growing fast and represented a rich opportunity for investors.

He cited opportunities including management of the protected state forests, as well as investment into the country’s wood processing plants and wood value-added production.

Mr Biruta’s meeting brought together a large number of private sector representatives to talk about how best to make use of the opportunities and challenges in the forestry and wood sector and how stakeholders can come together in order to boost the investment opportunities linked to Rwanda’s rich wood resources.

The country’s government was openly looking for increased investment and collaboration across its forestry sector, said Mr Biruta. “There are many opportunities for investment and value addition in Rwanda’s forestry sector. We are open to work with the private sector to manage our forests, improve their quality and ensure their efficient use and value addition,” he added.

Last week, the 2016/17 national budget was presented to Parliament by Finance and Economic Planning minister Claver Gatete, and it targeted 27 per cent of the budget to an economic boost which could be brought about by a renewed focus on the country’s precious wood industry. The budget also focused on the country’s textiles, garments and leather industry, as well as trade and investment facilitation and tourism.

“Every year we spend a huge amount of money on importing wood products, even though we have our own forest resources here to utilise,” said Mr Biruta, highlighting the reasons behind the government’s drive to focus on improving the use of its own resources and the investment potential that is linked to that.

His views about the value of Rwanda’s forestry sector were supported by the Head of the Forestry and Nature Conservation Department at the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority, Amini Mutaganda, who detailed to the potential private sector investors the current state of the country’s forests as well as the types of species used for afforestation, and the vast number of opportunities in the forestry arena.

The calls for a renewed focus on forestry follow The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) urging that increased investment in agro-forestry will encourage farmers to meet energy and food targets and demands over the coming years.

Otto Vianney Muhinda, the FAO Rwanda Assistant Representative told the Ministry of Natural Resources that all moves were targeted towards creating a “green and climate resilient economy” by the year 2030.

“We have conducted a study with Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and realised that sustainable forestry and agro forestry growing requires $200 million in the next 15 years,” he said.

Currently, agro-forestry coverage sits at around 8.6 per cent, with the target being to reach 85 per cent coverage by the year 2018, due to the agro-forestry strategy that is being worked on. Improved forestation and reforestation is 29.2 per cent at present, with a current survival rate of 75 per cent, Mr Vianney Muhinda confirmed. He added that the target is to reach 30 per cent forest coverage and 80 per cent survival rate by the year 2018.

GWD Forestry spokesman James Barrett said: “It is clear that the forestry sector in Rwanda represents vast opportunities for private sector investors. However, it is key that both government, investors and farmers work together to ensure that the forest land is being managed to the best of its ability in order to ensure these rich opportunities are not lost.”

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