about WED > Know More About Rwanda

WED 2010 will take place all over Rwanda from 29 May - 5 June, with the official program beginning on 3 June in Kigali. This year's celebration will be one of the largest WED celebrations since its inception in 1972. The cultural festivities on 4 and 5 June are open to the public and we welcome all those in Rwanda (whether visitors or residents) to join us for this special occasion. Click here to read the program for WED 2010 in Rwanda.




Rwanda is located in Central Africa between latitudes 1°04’ and 2°51’ south and longitudes 28°45’ and 31°15’ east. Its surface area is 26.338 km2. The average population density is 321 people per km2  and the physiological density is 500 people per km2, The Rwandan relief is hilly and mountainous with an altitude averaging 1700 meters. This country is also known affectionately as the Land of a Thousand Hills due to its relief set up.

Rwanda has undulating hills in most of the central plateau and a mountainous landscape that includes the volcanic Virunga range in the northwest, home to what is estimated to be a third of the world’s remaining 750 mountain gorillas. Average annual temperatures are about 18.5oC and average rainfall is about 1,250 mm per annum.

General context of environmental management in Rwanda

Environment is a very important and sensitive factor in the socioeconomic, political and cultural development of the country; Rwanda is naturally endowed with water, biodiversity and landscapes that have shaped the livelihoods, economic and social structure of the country over centuries. These landscapes are, however, fragile and over the years, they have been severely degraded, thereby affecting the quality of livelihoods and economy.

Environmental degradation and climate change impacts have been recognized at the highest political level, as some of the main barriers to realizing Rwanda’s medium and long-term development aspirations enshrined in the Vision 2020 and in the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy ( EDPRS) respectively. This realization has been translated into a resolve of the Government of Rwanda (GoR) to effectively control pollution, conserve biodiversity, and restore productive ecosystems.

Under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, who is one of Africa’s strongest voices on environmental sustainability, Rwanda has developed a visionary strategy for sustainable development and environmental protection, with a spate of new policies and laws for environmental management.

Rwanda’s green initiatives include:

  • Environment organic law promulgation
  • Establishment of Rwanda Environment Management Authority
  • Biodiversity and wildlife policies development
  • Programmes aimed at halting the effects of climate change, including preserving wetlands and forests as well as a countrywide tree-planting 
  • Protection of river banks and lake shores for biodiversity conservation
  • Tourism revenue sharing scheme for communities surrounding Protected Areas.
  • A country-wide ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags
  • Nationwide community works known as Umuganda which include activities like litter cleanups tree-planting and greening of cities.
  • Trash collection in Kigali, with the litter recycled into cooking bricks as an alternative to firewood.
  • Development of renewable energies (Biogas, solar, hydropower) and Rainwater harvesting in schools, household and in public and private institutions

Current state of Biodiversity of Rwanda

Rwanda has a remarkable variety of ecosystems and of flora and fauna. Its location at the heart of the Albertine Rift eco-region in the western arm of the Africa’s Rift Valley is a contributory factor. This region is one of Africa’s most biologically diverse regions. It is home to some 40 per cent of the continent’s mammal species (402 species), a huge diversity of birds (1,061 species), reptiles and amphibians (293 species), and higher plants (5,793 species).

The most biologically diverse habitats in Rwanda lie within three protected areas including Volcanoes National Park, Akagera National Park, and Nyungwe National Park. The last is known to be the largest mountain rainforest in Africa and covers around 1013 Km2of rugged terrain, ranging in elevation from 5,200–9,680 feet, including tall, closed-canopy forests, bamboo thickets, and open, flower-filled marshes. This ecosystem maintains the hydrological system of not only the country but also the region.

Rwanda shelters 151 different types of mammal species, eleven of which are currently threatened and none of which are endemic. Among them are the primates (14 to 16),with half of the remaining world population of mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla berengei). The gorillas are found in the Volcanoes National Park.
The Natural Mountainous forests, concentrated in the Western Province which also harbors the Lake Kivu, are home to golden monkeys, the white and black colobus monkey, the owl faced monkey which is on the red list of IUCN to mention but a few. In the East, the relief is characterized by a vast monotonous region cut up in big hardpan strips strewn with a multitude of lakes and marshes which are habitat to various natural resources including hippos, giraffes, zebras, leopards, crocodiles, and nearly 600 species of birds.

Rwanda is one of the top birding countries with 670 different birds having been recorded. Four of species of birds in Rwanda are threatened with extinction: the shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) found in Akagera; Grauer’s rush warbler (Bradyptrus graueri) found in Volcanoes National Park in Nyungwe and in the swamps of Rugezi; the Kungwe apalis(Apalis argentea) found in Nyungwe; and the African or Congo barn owl (Phodilus prigoginei) found along Lake Kivu.

This rich biodiversity is mainly conserved in protected areas (three national parks, natural forests, wetlands). Despite its size and high population density, almost 20 per cent of the national territory is dedicated as protected areas.

With the highest population density in Africa, coupled with its dependence on natural resources,  the major threats to the biodiversity and genetic resources in Rwanda are mainly linked to population pressure and the problem of land scarcity. Other threats to the biodiversity are linked to human activities such as loss of habitat by conversion of natural habitats, mining, agriculture and the introduction of alien species.

The rich biodiversity of Rwanda, provide an opportunity for the development of the tourism sector in Rwanda. Rwandan tourism is mainly based on visits in national parks, with the Volcanoes National Park, the most visited.


Further Resources

WED Program in Rwanda

UNEP State of the Environment - Rwanda

UNEP Africa Atlas – Republic of Rwanda Profile

2008 UN Habitat Scroll of Honor Awards

Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management (KIST)

Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy

Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA)

Ministry of Natural Resources (MINIRENA)

Biography of Minister Stanislas Kamanzi (MINIRENA)

Biography of President Paul Kagame

2009 Time 100 issue

UNEP WED Celebrations Worldwide

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- North America

- Korea