Daring to make the difference

Relocation and rehabilitation: climate change adaptation in Rwanda

“The success of the CC DARE programme in Rwanda is exemplary and will serve as a model for CC DARE cooperation in other countries.”
Ms. Margit Thomsen, Danish Environment Ambassador

The Problem

Once home to populations of chimpanzees and Golden Monkeys, the sloping terrain of Rwanda’s Gishwati Forest has in recent decades suffered severe environmental degradation, which has been exacerbated by devastating climatic disasters. Landslides, floods and torrential rain have claimed lives, demolished human settlements, and destroyed thousands of hectares of forest and farmland. The 1994 genocide displaced many thousands of people, which led to further land clearing and extensive degradation as desperate people were forced to settle on steeply sloping land in this densely populated country.

The Solution

The joint UNEP and UNDP Climate Change and Development – Adapting by Reducing Vulnerability (CC DARE) programme provided Rwanda with funding to develop a Land Suitability and Land Use Plan. This helped guide the relocation of human settlements from high risk zones, as well as the rehabilitation of vacated land, in order to reduce the vulnerability of local communities and ecosystems. Risk assessments showed that if further erosion of the Gishwati forest was to be avoided, 43 per cent of the terrain – around 2844 hectares – should be used for pasture, forest plantation and fruit trees. Of this 1393 hectares should be preserved and invasive human activities forbidden.


CC DARE showed that small, flexible and targeted funding works. Working with the Rwandan Ministry of Environment, local government, districts and communities, and with $150,000 in funding from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNEP provided timely and focused support for the planning that is vital for moving communities and rehabilitating land. The project also developed manuals that enabled a proper assessment of land use – guiding communities and authorities on carbon sequestration, high value crops, soil resilience, sustainable farming systems, bridging periods of food insecurity, and strategies to cope with climate variability. The programme attracted national Government interest and acted as a catalyst for larger interventions. The relocation of communities to safer areas was implemented by local government and supported by national budgetary allocation, demonstrating the partnership and devolution of power that can fast track the implementation of climate change adaptation while keeping actions within national development programmes.

The Big Picture

The updated Land Suitability and Land Use Map and Plan for Gishwati has had an enormous impact, paving the way for innovative action on climate change adaptation in Africa's most densely populated country. The initial investment has enabled the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture to access $25 million from the Government of Rwanda for the resettlement of returnees displaced by the 1994 genocide, and for the rehabilitation of land where the risk of landslides and flooding is greatest. Rehabilitation will, in turn, enable Rwanda to play a bigger role in global carbon trading through the establishment of new carbon sinks in Gishwati. The success of the project has helped Rwanda leverage other funds, including $15.9 million from the UNFCCC Least Developed Country Fund and UNDP, among other sources, and enabled other climate change adaptation programmes in the country to make substantial savings. There is enormous potential for the project to be replicated elsewhere in Rwanda. There are plans to share the knowledge and experience the project has generated with other central African countries to encourage the approach on a small or large scale beyond Rwanda’s borders.


Status Report

CCDARE in Sub - Saharan Africa