In a National Dialogue that was held at Lemigo Hotel on December 20th, 2019, and organized by the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network) in partnership with Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Forest Landscape Restoration (FRL) Hub, the Centre for Geographic Information System (CGIS), Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resources Management (CoEB) participants had discussions on Rwanda Wetlands Ecological Integrity under the theme “Rwanda Wetlands: Valuable but Vulnerable Asset”.
Participants maintained that wetland management should be given more than the consideration it is given currently in order to curb threats that damage their ecosystems.
Dr. Sam Kanyamibwa, Founder and Executive Director of ARCOS said that measures should be established to monitor activities conducted in wetlands including sustainable agricultural activities.
“Wetland benefits reach a large spectrum and the challenges they face need to be addressed by all sectors. ARCOS Network will continue to support the cause as per its moto of Collaborative Action for Nature and People.”
Participants were informed about the findings from the rapid wetland assessment conducted by a multidisciplinary team of Rwandan experts coordinated by ARCOS since May 2019.
Over 1,627 georeferenced records of biodiversity data have been sampled in all 8 major wetland zones of Rwanda and published on ARCOS Biodiversity Information Management System.
The findings show that on average, the ecological integrity of some wetlands in Rwanda is estimated at 50% of its potential, while the ecological integrity of Akanyaru and City of Kigali wetland complexes were ranked low (20%-40%), and between (0%-20%) for Muvumba wetland complex as it is highly converted for agriculture intensification with less than 15% of its size remaining as a natural remnant forest of acacia trees.
Wetlands cover an estimated nine percent of the Earth’s land surface and contribute significantly to the global economy in terms of water supply, fisheries, agriculture, forestry, and tourism, as well as to climate change regulation.
Dr. Kanyamibwa said that more effort should be put in promoting the wise use of all wetlands.
“We need to reflect on wetlands as ecosystems that contribute to both biodiversity conservation and human well-being and base on that to promote their conservation and wise use.”
He urged agencies dedicated on protecting the environment to be vigilant to the threats.
Major threats in wetlands include draining for agricultural and construction activities, the introduction of invasive species that can damage the wetland ecosystem, pollution that kills the flora and fauna of wetlands as well as climate change.
The dialogue came after a research conducted by ARCOS Network on Rwanda Wetland Ecological Integrity Assessment through a two-year project funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation.
The results from the rapid assessment phase showed that the overall population status and trends of wetlands taxa is good with various species of special conservation concern, but the level of intensity and frequency of threats is very high.
Apart from Rugezi wetlands gazetted as RAMSAR site and Kamiranzovu wetlands located inside Nyungwe National Park, other different wetlands assessed found that more than 80% of their ecological integrityis threatened by different human activities as well as climate change and there is a desperate need to address the concern.
Statistics show that 10% of Rwanda’s area is covered by wetlands, 101 lakes, 861 rivers and up to 860 swamps. All the aforementioned water bodies are essential since humans and animals depend on water to sustain life.
In 2020, ARCOS Network plans on conducting further research especially in City of Kigali wetlands Complex, rweru-mugesera Wetland complex, Akanyaru Wetland complex, Southern and Eastern Kirehe wetland complex.
The Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network) is a Regional NGO established in 1995 with the mission “To enhance biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of natural resources in the Albertine Rift region and beyond, through the promotion of collaborative conservation action for nature and people”.
Today, ARCOS has programs extending in the Albertine Rift region, Africa Great Lakes and African Mountains.