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LAFREC Project Leaves Lasting Legacy of Ecosystem Restoration and Climate Change Resilience in Rwanda

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The Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation (LAFREC) Project is concluding after six years of transforming the Gishwati-Mukura landscape, resulting in the creation of a new national park and declared by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve and directly improving lives of more than 40,000 Rwandans.

It has also enhanced wood fuel value chains, created new habitats and infrastructure, and made the country more resilient to climate change, among many other significant outcomes that have transformed Rwanda’s northwestern region.

Since 2015, the Government of Rwanda through the Rwanda Environment Management Authority has implemented the Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation (LAFREC) project with support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the World Bank. In 2017, the project was expanded with support of the Nordic Development Fund to improve the efficiency and sustainability of charcoal and wood fuel value chains.

Over the last six years, the LAFREC project has used a landscape restoration approach to rehabilitate the Gishwati-Mukura landscape and bring forest ecosystems into better management to realise benefits for communities living in and around the park.

Through the project, 603 hectares of the Gishwati-Mukura National Park buffer zone have been restored, 32 hectares of illegal mining sites have been repaired, 900 hectares of woodlots have been improved and 446 hectares of farmland are now under the silvopastoralism which benefits both farmers and our environment. Tree seed centres were also rehabilitated or created and a cookstove test laboratory was established to improve the country’s ability to assess technology that aims to improve wood fuel use.

“The LAFREC project has not only transformed the landscape by protecting and restoring biodiversity, it has also transformed the lives of thousands of Rwandans and demonstrated that investing in nature yields significant returns for both people and the planet” said Juliet Kabera, Director General, Rwanda Environment Management Authority.

“We are grateful to the communities who have made the project a success, our implementing partners for their dedication and hard work, and our funding partners including the Global
Environment Facility, the Nordic Development Fund and the World Bank for their generous support,” Juliet Kabera added.

“Through this project, we supported Rwanda’s effort to harness the potential of forests and terrestrial ecosystems to reduce poverty, contribute to economic growth, and strengthen the environmental services they provide — locally and globally,” said Rolande Pryce, World Bank Country Manager, Rwanda.

The LAFREC project concludes today with a celebratory event that will showcase the results of the project, recognise best performers in the adoption of silvopastoralism as well as representatives from charcoal, seed collectors and woodlot cooperatives. Partners who have played an invaluable role in the success of the project will also be recognised, including the Global Environment Facility, Nordic Development Fund, World Bank, relevant ministries, Rwanda Development Board, Rwanda Forestry Authority, Rwanda Standards Board, Meteo Rwanda and the local district authorities.

About the LAFREC Project
The Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation (LAFREC) project was a five year project implemented by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the World Bank.

The project rehabilitated the Gishwati-Mukura landscape through a landscape approach to bring the forest ecosystems into better management and ensure multiple benefits for local communities.

This was achieved through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, increased forest cover, climate change adaptation efforts together with combating land degradation and the provision of livelihood opportunities to communities.

The restoration of the previously degraded Gishwati-Mukura landscape has enhanced both its productive and environmental values. Thanks to the work of the project and previous initiatives, Gishwati-Mukura was gazetted as a national park in 2016 and designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2020.

LAFREC was co-financed by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF), also through the World Bank, which integrated the “Improving the Efficiency and Sustainability of Charcoal and Wood fuel Value Chains” initiative into the LAFREC project.

The NDF funded component of the project Improved woodlot management and tree seed quality, and provided technical assistance for more efficient charcoal production and biomass processing in Rwanda.

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