Authored by Providence Akayezu

Climate change is affecting the livelihoods of the population around the world. Challenging situations require innovative interventions and BirdLife is working hand in hand with local communities, who have unique knowledge of their landscapes, to build alternatives in Rwanda and Burundi.

Under the auspices of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and MacArthur Foundation, BirdLife is implementing a project towards the sustainable protection of altitudinal gradients in the Kivu and Tanganyika Lake basins. These landscapes with minimum elevation of 1, 000 meters above sea level are often connected to tropical montane rainforest and contribute to water provision for countries in the targeted basins. However in most of the cases, these water towers are not fully covered with vegetation, or are negatively affected by illegal mining and unsustainable agriculture practices. These in turn result in increased erosion rates during rainy seasons – and this become much severe under changing climatic conditions (mainly high annual average rainfall). High erosion rate reduces agricultural productivity in upstream and causes river sedimentation in the downstream areas of the catchments constituting lake basins.

To address this problem, a mixed approach was used: firstly a study to identify erosion hotspots in selected catchments, and secondly community consultation through climate change vulnerability assessments and developing adaptation plans. The latter considered priority sites as pinpointed by the erosion hotspot map for each targeted catchment in the Kivu and Tanganyika Lake basins. Such an approach forms baseline for powerful on-site actions for land protection that build on both science and local knowledge.