Rwanda is located in eastern central Africa between 1 ° and 3 ° south of the equator. The landlocked land in the middle of the Great Lakes region borders Uganda in the north, Tanzania in the east, Burundi in the south and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the west
The distance from the coast is approx. 1200 km by road to the Indian Ocean (Mombasa, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), or over 3000 km to the Atlantic Ocean.
According to a2zgov, with an area of 26,338 square kilometers, Rwanda is one of the smallest states in Africa and its size roughly corresponds to the size of medium-sized German federal states such as Hesse or Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland combined.
The most recent extensive surveys of Rwanda’s basic data are from 2012. The independent National Institute for Statistics (NISR) keeps the most important basic data up to date from official sources. Comparative solid estimates from independent sources come from international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and UN agencies such as the UN Development Program (UNDP). The data from the different sources often diverge considerably. The CIA’s World Factbook also offers extensive data on Rwanda in tabular form .
The nature of the landscape, the extremely high population and the high population growth in Rwanda result in numerous ecological problems. Over 80% of the country’s area has been cultivated today. The growing demand for firewood for cooking and heating purposes, as well as the need for arable land and pastureland, have led to significant clearing of the forest.
Another ecological problem is chronic soil erosion. Triggering factors, in addition to deforestation and overgrazing, are the high number of steep slopes, the elimination of the previously common grass fallow and deep cultivation with the hoe. Annual crops exacerbate the problem of erosion, because at the time of sowing and after harvesting, the soil without a protective cover of plants is exposed to the heavy rainfall during the rainy seasons.
The genocide of 1994 also had significant negative effects on the environment, which accelerated the already existing degradation processes in the country. The effects of the genocide on the dramatic deforestation of forest areas and the settlement of nature reserves are particularly visible. At that time, millions of displaced people built new settlements and refugee camps in these areas. The Gishwati Forest in the western part of the country and the Akagera National Park in the east, which lost more than two thirds of its original area due to the settlement at the time, were dramatically affected.
Rwanda has taken measures over the past few years to counteract these difficult environmental conditions. Vision 2020, a medium-term development strategy of the government, explicitly mentions environmental protection as an important pillar. The environmental management authority REMA was created to ensure that the environmental policy is implemented accordingly. According to a study published in 2011 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), has lost 60% of its natural forest area since the country’s independence in 1962. However, according to the UNEP study, recent efforts have contributed to the fact that reforestation programs have increased the forest area to around 20% of the country’s area. Thus, Rwanda is one of the few countries that are trying to reverse the generally prevailing trend of deforestation. Further efforts can be observed in the area of energy supply. In order to gradually reduce the proportion of wood as the main energy source, the government is relying on the promotion of renewable energies with solar and hydropower plants.
Research work has been carried out in Rwanda for over 25 years by the Institute of Biology and the Geographical Institute of the University of Koblenz-Landau. The aim is to develop possibilities for an ecologically adapted use of the available resources and thus to make a contribution to the preservation of biodiversity and the protection against landscape degradation. As part of a long-term partnership between Rwanda and the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, an inter-university cooperation has developed, which is reflected, among other things, in a continuous exchange of staff (of professors and students) between the Rwandan state university and the Rhineland-Palatinate University of Koblenz-Landau.
The efforts to preserve all three national parks and the restoration of the fourth (Gishwati-Mukura NP), despite the limited space, represent an important component of the government’s environmental policy. In addition to environmental protection, there are employment promotion programs here, which involve greater involvement of local residents in tourism create new alternative sources of income.
Government efforts in the field of waste disposal are also worth mentioning. The government has made progress through some uncompromising choices and stricter practices. The capital Kigali has become noticeably cleaner over the past few years. An extraordinary measure was the ban on the production, introduction and use of plastic shopping bags, which is still in force today. They have been replaced by tote bags made of sisal or paper.