Restoring land through agroforestry in Rwanda

Living Labs

Restoring land through agroforestry in Rwanda

Implementing agroforestry with a regional African dimension

The mountains of East Africa are home to millions of people, and a range of ecosystem services and goods that are an important source of future agrobiodiversity. They play a central role in water supply and associated poverty alleviation and sustainable development. However, climate change is already drastically affecting this area, with the last glaciers in Africa disappearing by the middle of this century. This leads to increased pressure on land, erratic rainfall patterns, as well as deadly floods and droughts.

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance is partnering with national and international organizations to create a Transboundary Regional Living Lab to enhance the resilience and adaptation of all mountain ecosystems and their communities in East Africa. This Living Lab in West Rwanda is the first phase of this ambitious initiative.

Project launch: 2022
Location: Mukura Forest and Lake Kivu catchment, Rwanda
Objectives: Restoring and conserving forest cover, slowing degradation of ecosystems, promoting sustainable value chains
Key activities: Restoring degraded lands with agroforestry / Mobilising and empowering community groups / Planting 3.6 million trees / Developing livelihoods through sustainable agriculture and land management practices
Main species planted: Grevillea robusta, Markhamia lutea, Alnus acuminata, Prunus Africana, Mytragina, Avocado, Coffee, Tea
Partners: Local communities, Local government, ARCOS, Reforest’Action


Rwanda’s forest cover has decreased by 8.2 % since 2000. In the mountainous landscapes of Rutsiro District, land and forest degradation have brought major environmental and socio-economic problems. High population pressures lead to the fragmentation of arable land and provoke a high dependence on agriculture and forest resources. Intense deforestation, mainly driven by unsustainable agricultural practices and population growth has led to soil erosion, land degradation and landslide risks, a threat exacerbated by climate change.

To tackle this issue, the government initiated a national vision that puts the environment and natural resources at the centre of its development. The CBA’s Living Lab based on agroforestry directly contributes to this strategy. By combining landscape and circular bioeconomy value chain approaches as well as integrating traditional and latest scientific knowledge, the Living Lab will help enhance environmental resilience, restore the soil’s ecological functions as well as increase crop productivity and enhance local livelihoods.


  • Action on the ground
    This Living Lab takes place around the Mukura Forest and the Lake Kivu catchment in Rwanda. The project will target over 30,000 households and cover a total area of 15,000 hectares. Local stakeholders will plant various tree species in agroforestry systems to restore the biodiversity of degraded ecosystems. This will also support timber productivity, carbon sequestration as well as soil and water conservation. Sustainable livelihood options will also be created through nature-based value chains, via the sustainable production of timber, coffee, tea, and fruits.
  • Restoring land through agroforestry
    Agroforestry is based on the introduction of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape. The introduction of agroforestry practices increases crop productivity while improving the resilience of the degraded ecosystems. Integrating indigenous species in agroforestry helps to restore biodiversity in agricultural lands and reduce soil erosion. It also contributes to the local population’s food security and to the diversification of the income generated by crops.
  • Fostering collective action
    A network of over 1,000 community groups will be mobilised and empowered through the Living Lab. The trees planted and the forest goods produced as well as the commercialisation of coffee and tea will contribute to develop the livelihoods of up to 120,000 people. A network of cooperatives will be created, together with 31 nature-based community funds to ensure the financial sustainability of the work carried out. This approach will improve local producers’ access to established community groups and help them enhance and diversify their income.

Expected impacts

The project directly contributes to the achievement of 11 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a roadmap to a better and more sustainable future.

Our latest Rwanda stories