What can we learn from Rwanda’s sustainable growth?

Rwanda is a country known for its beautiful, curving green horizons, vividly manifesting the land’s title: The Country of a Thousand Hills. But did you know, that Rwanda is also a global leader in effectively integrating climate resilience and gender equality strategies?

Rwanda is putting significant efforts in place to focus its development goals on the environment and climate change. As a part of achieving the country’s Vision 2020 plan, in 2008, Rwanda banned non-biodegradable plastic bags, making them illegal to produce, import or sell. The improper disposal of plastic bags had huge negative effects on Rwanda’s environment. Bags would clog drainage systems, causing deadly flooding and pollute agricultural land, preventing water absorption and leading to decreases in agricultural yields. Bags that were collected would be burned to prevent their exposure to the environment this, however, released harmful toxins into the air. Stores are now required to remove the plastic packaging before selling products to customers and biodegradable bags are allowed only for frozen meat and fish but even such bags take some time to decompose. So prepare your luggage to be searched upon your arrival to Rwanda, and make sure to not smuggle in any illegal items 😉

In Rwanda, animal and environmental conservation is a big priority, however, the country equally values the restoration of already degraded ecosystems such as wetlands, lakes and natural forests. Another incentive of the Vision 2020 plan is to achieve 30% forest cover in the country; to accomplish this, restrictions have been placed on access to natural and plantation forests. Rural communities are encouraged to practice agroforestry and reforestation. The Rugezi wetland (which had dried up because of human activities and climate change) was rehabilitated, water levels recovered, resulting in increased hydropower production and a boost in the country’s fishing sector.

As one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change, Rwanda is well aware that bigger challenges lie in the future. In preparation, the country has established the Green Fund, the largest investment fund of it’s kind in Africa. It supports the most impactful public and private projects that align with Rwanda’s commitment to building a green economy, the fund has generated over 100,000 jobs so far.

And the country keeps looking ahead: considering the warming climate, the demand for household refrigerators and air conditioners in Rwanda is rapidly increasing. The biggest issue is that gases used as cooling agents are almost 10,000 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2 (and are projected to comprise almost 20% of greenhouse gases by 2050!). For this reason, government and non-government initiatives came together with the aim to transform the local refrigeration and air conditioning market, with the mission to incorporate more efficient and climate-friendly products.

Community efforts to keep Rwanda clean are growing. Deeply rooted in the culture, Umuganda is a national day of community service held on the last Saturday of every month. The people work within their community sectors on various public projects, from cleaning public areas and building homes to planting trees and farming. Umuganda originates from the Kinyarwanda word meaning woods used to construct a traditional house, this can be interpreted as “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome.”

Environmental protection is not the only field in which Rwanda is a role model. Did you know that Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Rwanda are the top five global leaders in gender equality? In 2016, The Global Gender Gap Report examined four areas specifically: health, education, economy, and politics. In the last two, Rwanda was ahead of the majority of the world. At 86%, Rwanda has one of the highest rates of female labor force participation globally. Continuously, with over 61% of its political representatives being female, Rwanda is reaching the top of the list in female political participation

Rwanda, a fast-growing and ambitious nation, has the opportunity to bypass environmentally destructive development and offer the best for its people. and it has become a worldwide leader in sustainability and gender equality. Despite all of this progress, access to electricity is still an issue It’s estimated that only 42% of country’s households have access to electricity, that number decreases to 12% in the rural areas. This is where Little Sun and our partner, Safer Rwanda are putting in efforts, providing clean and sustainable light to school children and their families. And YOU can help us, LEARN how to empower new #SolarGeneration in Rwanda!


Photo Credits: Nina RRwanda Green Fund, Little Sun.

References: World Economic Forum, New York Times, United Nations Rwanda, United Nations Environment, SSMart for Sustainable Development Goals, Republic of Rwanda Ministry of Infrastructure