Rwanda has diverse habitats and ecosystems that range from humid montane forests to savannahs, lakes, rivers and wetlands which support a wide range of biodiversity. Rwanda’s biodiversity play a critical ecosystem services such as water, soil erosion and flood control as well as climate change mitigation.
Three components of biodiversity are ecosystem, species and genetic diversity.
Rwanda is in the highlands of the Albertine Rift, an important ecological structure in the region of eastern and central Africa, a generally mountainous region heavily dissected by a complex network of rivers, lakes, and wetlands; thus, the name “the land of a thousand hills”. The highest peak is Karisimbi (4,507m), one of 8 major volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains. Rwanda’s landscapes and natural forests in particular are very rich in biodiversity including numerous species that are endemic. Rwanda has diverse ecosystems that range from humid montane and planted forests to savannahs, water resources and wetlands. The country has the largest mountain rainforests in Africa, which is home to closedcanopy forests, bamboo thickets and open flower-filled marshes.
Rwanda is home to 402 mammal species (about 40 percent of Africa’s mammalian species); 1,061 bird species, 293 reptile and amphibian species and 5,793 higher plant species (REMA, 2019b). Mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) generate important tourism revenue and are found in only two other countries – Uganda and the DRC. The Chimpanzee (Pan troglodyte), another critically endangered species, has about 500 individuals. There are many other primates including endemic species that have made Rwanda a primatologist’s paradise (RoR, 2020b).
Genetic material is any material of plant, animal, microbial, bacteria or other origin used for research or product development. In order to know and understand the diversity present in the country, an inventory of plant, animal and aquatic genetic resources must be carried out.
In Rwanda, there is a rich history of traditional knowledge related to medicinal plants, agriculture, animal husbandry, food storage, natural resource management, ecological systems and wildlife. Most of this knowledge is oral and passed from generation to generation usually within families. With a growing market needs for ‘nature based’ cosmetics, medicines, pesticides, there is a constant search for new plants, microbes, animal parts (Genetic Resources) that can be commercialized or purely researched and knowledge of local communities on how to utilize or maintain these genetic resources (associated Traditional Knowledge) are helpful ‘strings’ for identifying claims.
Rwanda has 9 Protected Areas Covering 232,000 ha of the land or about 9.11 percent of the country The proposed National Land Use & Development Master Plan NLUDMP) 2020-2050 land use balance sheet 2050 has set 37.7 percent of the country's surface to be set aside for conservation purposes and this is expected to meet the global set targets of 27 percent under the SDG’s program (RoR, 2020a).
Three of the protected areas are transboundary i.e., Greater Virunga landscape bordering Rwanda, Uganda, DRC (area 1,500,000 ha), Kagera TFCA among Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda (25,000 ha), Nyungwe- Kibira between Rwanda and Burundi (117,100 ha).