Rwanda: Parliament Passes Bill Prohibiting Harvest of Immature Trees

Rwandans will be prohibited from cutting immature trees once a bill governing forests and trees passed by the lower chamber of Parliament on Monday, March 25, is published in the official gazette.

Among other provisions, the bill outlaws the harvesting, use, and sale of ‘immature trees’ referred to as poles, unless approved by the Ministry in charge of Enivronment for ‘particular reasons.’

ALSO READ: Parliament to deliberate on ‘tough’ forest bill

Pole means an immature tree, with a diameter of less than 20 cm measured at 1.30 cm from the ground, as per interpretation in the bill. However, the bill did not provide for what would happen in case some trees fail to reach such trunk width – as a result of factors such as soil type or nutrient deficiency.

While residents are not required to have a licence to harvest forests having less than two ha under the existing law, they will be mandated to have a permit prior to being eligible to harvest any tree as per the new bill.

The bill aims to further environmental protection and prevent climate change effects, according to Parliament.

Once promulgated, it will replace the law governing the management and utilisation of forests, which was enacted in 2013.

The bill seeks to support Rwanda’s effort to leverage different opportunities like forest carbon emission trading (carbon finance), through legislation, according to the Ministry of Environment.

ALSO READ: Inside Rwanda’s ‘carbon market scheme’

The draft law widens the scope of application to also capture the management of trees and adds the dimension of tree planting, agroforestry, and planting trees along rivers, lakes, roads, and urban settlement areas, among others.

In an explanatory note of the bill, the government indicated that it was in line with Rwanda’s ambition where it is projected that 70 per cent of its population will be living in cities in 2050.

This, it indicated, implies the need to plant more trees to green the country’s cities and settlements, to plant trees on agricultural land (agroforestry), along the roads, lake, and river buffer.

Also, it indicated that the construction sector is growing and this has led to the cutting of immature trees for construction which destroys forests.

Rwanda has committed to different international agreements like Bonn Challenge to restore 2 million hectares (as Rwanda’s target), Paris Agreement on climate change, among others.

“There is a need to have a legal tool for implementation of these commitments,” the explanatory note reads in part.

The Bonn Challenge is a global goal to bring 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes into restoration by 2030.

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