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Decentralization and Environment Management Project (DEMP)

The Decentralization and Environment Management Project was designed to strengthen the capacity for sustainable environmental and natural resources management.

Background
The Decentralization and Environment Management Project (DEMP) [1] was designed to strengthen the capacity for sustainable environmental and natural resources management, at community, district and national level, by building on the opportunities offered by decentralization. The Government of Rwanda and partners launched DEMP Phase I in 2004 and it ran for three years, followed by DEMP Phase II, which operated five years (2008 to 2013) to consolidate and scale up the successful initiatives of the first phase. The project has three main objectives:
·         Enable the Ministry of Natural Resources and its affiliated agencies to enforce the law[2] determining the use and management of land in Rwanda through mainstreaming environmental management in various development initiatives at national and sub-national levels;
·         Strengthen district capacity for environmental management;
·         Support sustainable livelihoods initiatives by implementing environmental priorities identified at the district level.
The project contributed to improved productivity and sustainability of key environment sectors including land, water resources management and agriculture in all districts of the Western Province (Karongi, Ngororero, Nyabihu, Nyamasheke, Rubahu, Rusizi and Rutsiro), the Northern Province district, City of Kigali district, and in six districts of the Eastern Province. The project supplied safe and clean water in the Eastern Province and created green jobs that contributed to income.
DEMP was implemented by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority in partnership with other key ministries (MINECOFIN, MINAGRI, MINICOM, MINALOC and MININFRA) under the leadership of MINIRENA. District authorities and local communities were involved in planning and implementing the different project activities. Women and youth representatives on behalf of participants were engaged with district officials in programme implementation.

Key results
·         Reduced vulnerability of communities from environmental degradation and risks: The project successfully implemented a three-pronged approach: (1) Environmental protection measures like soil conservation, treatment of riverbanks, tree plantation, etc.; (2) Resettlement of households from areas prone to natural disasters such as floods and landslides; (3) Promotion of sustainable environmental-friendly practices such as energy-saving clean cook stoves and sustainable farming practices. The process helped to develop awareness in the community about environmental issues and engaged the community in carrying out measures to protect the environment.
·         Programme implementation employed a decentralization process: DEMP established a trained team at district level that included the in-charge of agriculture and in-charge of environment, supported by trained technicians and more than 1,000 members from different cooperatives working on environmental issues. The district team helped to identify, design and manage about 60 projects through the district officials. They based the project designs on the major problems identified by the local communities and then helped them implement the projects.
·         Local off-farm job creation showed a spin-off effect: Project interventions not only helped communities build much-needed skills but also created employment opportunities such as handicrafts, growing mushrooms and growing vegetables in greenhouses. Community members saved some 5 to 10 percent of their wage payment from project interventions in a community development fund. Also, the project contributed to improved livelihoods by providing training on how to effectively manage ones income to pay for health insurance, school fees and house repairs. Land terraces developed during the project period continue to be used for improved agriculture yield.
·         The project applied an inclusive approach: The project used Ubudehe poverty-level categorization to identify beneficiaries for asset-building activities like house construction (in resettlement projects) and provision of a cow, to ensure that the most vulnerable were served. Through project interventions, families benefitted from support to develop alternate livelihoods as per their interest including, for example, fishing equipment, piggery and greenhouse development.
 
Challenges
·        Some found it difficult to adjust to their new living environment: In the Rubavu resettlement project, the community was happy with the geographic location of the new settlement and welcomed support for new houses. For some members, however, securing livelihood was a challenge in the beginning, especially for those formerly involved in farming on hill slopes. They had grown up practicing agriculture and, when suddenly landless, could not immediately find new livelihoods; some returned to their original farms and started cultivation, hiding themselves from local authorities. With time, however, the situation improved. The project provided support for wage work to develop Mount Rubavu and, though they struggled to identify with their new livelihood, they adjusted to the work and managed their lives, resettled in a safe place.
 
·         Balancing environment protection with community ownership: The project has tried to link the issues of environment and people together to find the solutions. In many cases protection of the environment leads to improvement agricultural production. Nevertheless, the emphasis on land treatment and associated targets towards it, not environmental protection per se. More discussion is needed to link the community’s ideas about environmental protection with their own initiatives, particularly in regard to livelihood. Promising changes include the formation of community organizations, community contributions from wage payment and use of community labour instead of contractors and should be extended further to strengthen community ownership while also caring for environmental conservation.

 

Lessons learned

In a change in practice, the project shifted from recruiting contractors to relying on community members: Initially, the projects involved local contractors for some of the project activities. Later, community members were trained in construction of terraces, nursery raising for plantation as well as environment conservation. The focus on a community-centred approach by district authorities showed positive results in terms of the development of local skills as well as quality of work.
 
In case of resettlement, never move people too far from their familiar environment: People are used to their local environment in terms of their livelihood and social relations and have an emotional attachment. In a new location, adjustment and recovery takes time and affects the family as a whole. The project set a good example of resettlement for the people living in Mount Rubavu. Facing environmental hazards, the community was relocated to a safer yet nearby location only 5 km away, in the Rukokoa cell. All households moved together, greatly reducing the time it took for the community to settle at the new town. Residents reported feeling happier as they are no longer under the fear of natural disaster. Most of them soon reestablished their livelihoods and, with project support, constructed new houses.

 
 
 

[1] The case study is based on meetings with PEI and DEMP team members in Kigali, discussions with field officers involved in engagement of the programme, visits to field locations in Rubavu (mount Rubavu and resettlement site), meetings with project participants as well as desk review of programme-related documents.

[2] Rwanda: Organic Land law N0 08/2005 of 14/07/2005

 

Resource Document: 
Author: 
UNDP Rwanda

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