Gashaki sector is located on the shores of lake Ruhondo in Musanze District, Northern Province. The lake has several small islands where at least 112 poor families have been living for long in fear for their lives, as they were exposed to natural disasters, due to human activities and the nature of the islands. They also had difficulties to access basic services such as health facilities, schools, market, roads, energy for cooking as they used firewood on the islands and so on.
“We used to cut down trees on the island or cross the lake to search for firewood on the shores… Also with the recent rain falls, we were afraid for our lives since we were living in very steep areas”, said Nyiranshimiyimana Chantal, one of the beneficiaries of Gashaki green village.
In order to respond to Chantal and her community’s concerns, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) with technical and financial support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), initiated a Green Village project in Gashaki sector to relocate the poorest families who are also the most vulnerable to climate change from Ruhondo lake Islands into Gashaki Green Village. The village has integrated greening components such as a rainwater harvesting system and a waste treatment system that provides biogas energy for cooking and fertilizers to boost agricultural yield for the residents. Every house in the green village is connected to electricity. This green village will accommodate the 112 families who were displaced from Ruhondo lake islands. The green village construction project is divided into two main phases. First, 25 twin-houses (2 families per house) were built for 50 families and in the second phase 102 units that will host 102 families. After completion of the project, 152 families in total will be relocated from the islands. The first phase of the green village is equipped with a water harvesting system with a total capacity of 250 cubic meters, a waste treatment system that generates biogas for cooking and fertilizer for agriculture, and grid electricity to which every house is connected.
“We wanted the green villages residents to shift from dangerous areas on the islands. We also encourage them to protect their environment because they will benefit from it… we relocated those who were living on very steep and dangerous areas. But we are planning to build other houses and relocate those who were left on the islands,” said Coletha Ruhamya, REMA’s Director General a.i. during the Umuganda (community work) and cow handing ceremony that took place at Gashaki green village.
The green village is also an opportunity for the local government to reach the residents easily compared to when they were living scattered in different islands. Now, the residents will easily have access to basic services such as schools, health centers, etc. They will also increase their agricultural yield thanks to the waste treatment system that is provided in the green village.
“We can now see the difference, because for instance, we have biogas for cooking which does not produce smoke compared to firewood and I am happy for that. Before cooking with firewood was a nightmare,” said Nyiranshimiyimana Chantal on how the green village has impacted her way of life.
In order to assist the green village residents, the Prime Minister handed 50 cows during the ‘Umuganda’ (community work) organized on the shores of lake Ruhondo to launch the environmental week, which precedes the International Environment Day on 5 June 2016. Musanze is a district known for its high mountains, where the average altitude is 2000 meters, which makes the region very exposed to disasters such as landslides.
Gashaki green village is part of the Government of Rwanda’s efforts to build a climate resilient nation, in line with its Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy. The “National Strategy for Climate Change and Low Carbon Development” presents the national environmental vision for 2050 that envisages Rwanda’s economic development, which will take into consideration climate change and other environment related issues.