Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Environmental challenges in Rwanda, government fights on

Generally, the administrative authorities in most African countries takes charge of protecting the environment as well as general welfare of the cities in terms of its cleanliness. In case of hygiene and sanitation, the authority will put in place special companies to manage the waste such as AVERDA in the case of Congo and HYSACAM for Cameroon. Rwanda witnesses a diverse scenario where the citizens themselves are deeply rooted and engaged in ensuring that their cities and communities are habitable.

Rwanda is facing a boom in population and a rapid urbanization of its towns and cities. With this growth in population and other major factors, Rwanda has been exposed to several environmental challenges.

Nevertheless, Rwandans are putting in remarkable efforts to polish their environment and ecosystem and make it a model in Africa. The much talked about economic blueprint of the country enshrined in vision 2020 is an initiative which strives to make the country environmentally sustainable. Thus, environmental protection is the pillars of Rwanda’s Vision 2020. The regime has over time implemented several strategies geared at sustaining environmental protection especially through the development of carbon-friendly energy policies.

The administration kicked off its environmental friendly campaign with a brutal crackdown on plastic bags in 2008, issuing a complete ban on the use of these throughout the territory. Foreigners who are coming into the country for the very first time are duly warned with sign posts and these bags are seized at the airport if found on them. This ban became very much effective in the country because the fine levied to defaulters were very high. Store owners who were found in possession of these bags could face prison terms of up to 12 months while others were imposed a fine of $150


It has been a well-established culture since from the 19the centuries for Rwandan citizens to dedicate hours of work for community cleaning and taking care of their environments. A concept popularly referred to as the Umuganda was adopted where denizens provided free labour for major projects run by the state such the building of schools, road works, and the construction of sanitation facilities and digging of anti-erosion ditches. By actively participating in such activities one was considered a ‘True Rwandan’.

This age old culture had been passed down from generation to generation and today is has been accepted by the general community. Today the concept has been formalized and has become a collective action carried out every last Saturday of each month.

During such period, all activities including traffic is halted for three hours and residents in various cities would show up in their numbers to clean the town. For such practice, the law urges all citizens between 18 and 65 years to take part in cleaning of streets, clearing of bushes and sewage systems. Usually, this day is taken very seriously by the people of Uganda and most of them have shown true commitment to the activity.

This continuous effort is actually paying off as the Rwandan capital Kigali is rated one of the cleanness cities in Africa. In 2008, the country received the prestigious UN Habitat Scroll of Honour Award its efforts in promoting an environmental friendly city even as it industrializes.


Aside from the fact it has largely succeeded in effectively managing hygiene and sanitation, it continues to face several other hazards especially due to climate variability. The effects of climate change has led to extreme catastrophes such as floods and droughts in the last few years which come with environmental and economic impacts.

Article from AFRIC Editorial.

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