I fell in love with her from the very second I set my eyes on her. The sight of just a little part of her convinced me that she was the one.
Perhaps, it was her smile, her curves, her contours and plateaus that charmed me.
It was love at first sight indeed!
I was blown away by her beauty. Upon getting close and finally exploring her potentials, I realized there was more to her physical appearance. I am not playing games. Every word coming out of my mouth is so true.
I made my first move and greeted her. She was so warm and casual. That alone melted my heart.
In high hopes, I quickly introduced myself and told her where I came from. She gave me another smile and chuckled, ‘ohhh you are from Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana’? I did not wait to hear the final consonant of her last word, I quickly grinned; ‘yes, I am from Ghana, West Africa.’
I finally asked; what’s your name? She was not so amused, but she answered, ‘I am Kigali, the first Daughter of Rwanda.’
I have known Kigali for just a few days, but I’ve already envisioned our future together.
From all indications, she was created for me. She is captivating, charming, elegant, enthralling, good-looking, gorgeous, and graceful. Kigali is free from dirt. I mean she is morally uncontaminated. She doesn’t allow littering. She has dustbins dotted at vantage points in her vicinity.
She doesn’t want to see the use of non-biodegradable plastics. She frowns on the indiscriminate dumping of refuse on the median or shoulders of the road like what I witness every Monday morning when I get to the Kwame Nkrumah Inter-Change, around the Odawna Market and VIP Bus terminal area in Ghana’s capital, Accra. It costs people dearly to litter in Kigali. She has systems to monitor compliance, punish people who break sanitation rules or laws, and also reward those who comply.
Effective and Efficient Systems
Kigali does not only get her people to be clean but also has stringent measures to check them from littering.
Among the many measures includes having dustbins dotted everywhere to make the dumping of waste easy, unlike Accra.
She has a number of districts. Let me use one as an example, the Gasabo District. The District has 15 sectors (what we may call towns), 73 Cells (Zones), and 481 Villages. Kigali sits on 430.30 Km². This is 58% of the total area of the City of Kigali. She has a Population of 580,187, Density: 1,348 people/Km², Households: 138,163 (Rural and urban). To be able to effectively manage waste in this district, Kigali authorities have data of all public places including schools, Bars and Eateries, Garages, public health centres, etc. This is something our district and municipalities must learn; keeping a database of all such public places for effective monitoring and regulation.
Kigali has several activities aimed at keeping her clean. Among the activities are:
Raising public awareness, Improving existing green areas, and the greening of the un-greened places. Proper waste management with emphasis on waste sorting, an inspection of public places, creation of a database of public places and their inspection, an improvement in personal hygiene, provision of proper sanitation infrastructures like toilets and waste fields, environmental protection with emphasis on prohibiting the disposal of soil or any other waste into wetlands and swamps, and conduction of daily inspections.
Strategies and approaches like hygiene performance contracts (IMIHIGO), Community mobilization (House to house and mass communication), city tours, waste collection, road cleaning and greening, hygiene patrol teams in all sectors, community work/umuganda (meaning: The collective efforts of people to carry out a general-interest public activity). It is done on the last Saturday of every month. Sounds to me like our failed National Sanitation Day.
All these couldn’t be possible without Kigali’s strong legal and policy framework. The legal framework includes National Policy and Strategy for Water supply, signing performance contracts, daily inspections by the District and sectors’ inspectors, national policy on environmental health, enforcing fine payment, national policy on medical and hazardous materials, encouraging proper waste management and hygiene practices, and ministerial order on greening and pavement.
These I believe are in the bye-laws of the various Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies in Ghana. We just need the strong will to enforce the law. We also have some effective waste management companies that will provide the needed infrastructure.
The median of all major roads in Kigali especially have lawns, flowers, and trees. They are well spaced and have irrigation pipes connected and well laid out. It tells you Kigali consciously takes care of the plants and they are deliberate in keeping them.
Kigali’s road network is breathtaking. The City has over 732 km of roads that make up the backbone of the infrastructure for the over 1.2 million residents. Along the portion, there are walkways for pedestrians.
Almost every house in Kigali has lawns interspersed with trees and flowers. There is a policy ensuring that every landlord or tenant consciously goes Eco. In Ghana, we are cutting down our trees and eroding our greens.
Kigali is tremendously green. The City has been designed to be in harmony with the natural and artificial landscape. Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region in Ghana, was in the 1970s described as the garden city, but I am afraid same cannot be said of it now.
Kigali’s hilly and valley nature has earned her the nickname, ’The Land of a Thousand Hills.’ The awesome contours and plateaus of the valley are filled with greens interspersed with well-laid-out infrastructure.
I saw commercial motorcycle riders, (what is popularly called Okada in Ghana), only that Kigali’s own is regulated. The motorcycles had number plates embossed on them; a proper form of identification. The rider had two helmets, one for himself and the passenger. They do not jump the red lights. They even stop for pedestrians at the zebra crossing.
What am I trying to point out? I know in Ghana’s capital, Accra, there has been a lot of talk about greening Ghana, and making Accra the cleanest city in Africa. I hope we will get there one day. But how do we achieve this? I propose we learn from the best practices on our continent. We can learn from the Rwandan example.
Kigali or Rwanda, according to the World Economic Forum, set a target christened ‘Vision 2020.’ This vision has been revised recently to ‘Rwanda Vision 2050.’
This vision purposes to bring every Rwandan onboard its developmental journey, integrating green growth and climate resilience strategies.
This country has over the past ten years deliberately prioritized environmental and climate change in all the country’s policies, programs, and plans.
The facts remain accurate. Rwanda was one of the first countries to ban plastic bags. They were also committed to aggressive nationwide landscape restoration. This saw citizens plant millions of trees annually. This is aimed at protecting its rivers, wetlands and forests. The same cannot be said about Ghana.
For instance, we are fast selling our wetlands which are part of the biodiversity that protects and sustains our environment. Rwanda is hoping that by the year 2050, these policies which are not just refrains as is the case in Ghana, will help Rwanda rapidly develop, be climate-resilient, and be on a low-carbon economy.
The World Economic Forum lists five basic things Rwanda did. They might be complex for Ghana, but they’re doable;
Banning the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags and other packaging materials
Right from 2008, Rwanda has committed resources to keep a healthy environment by banning the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags and other packaging materials. As an alternative, they use bags made from paper, cloth, banana leaves, papyrus, as well as biodegradable materials. Ghana can start from here. Of course, the big plastic industries will bite, but we must be focused and start from somewhere until we gradually phase out non-biodegradable plastics. I am aware that some water bottling companies have started using biodegradable plastics. That’s a good start. I also suggest that we judiciously appropriate the polluter pay funds to start efficient recycling of our plastics. We can recycle them into plastic slabs for affordable housing.
Executing the ban on the use of such plastics was not easy for Rwanda; but today, she has earned for herself an enviable reputation of being the cleanest city in Africa. It is the cleanest. It also created opportunities for entrepreneurs who invested in alternative packaging materials (cloth, paper, banana leaves, and papyrus).
Increasing Forest cover
Rwanda set out to increase its forest cover by 30 percent of its total land area which is about 26,338 km² through a massive reforestation and tree-planting program. Authorities also introduced agroforestry and training schemes. These interventions, along with the plastic-bag ban, have yielded tremendous results. It has reduced the level of contamination in the air. This according to scientists prolongs the lives of inhabitants because of the fresh levels of oxygen they breathe.
With the Green Ghana Project which is to kick start on June 11, 2021, Ghana is hoping to plant 5 Million Trees in a day across the country. Ghana has a total land size of 238,535 km². Current statistics show that out of the 230, 000km² of land size, 40% (9.17 million ha) are forest areas. The situation is not dire; but with the upsurge of illegal mining in our forests, we must act and act fast.
The Green Ghana Project, which is under the auspices of the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry and the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies, would mobilize Ghanaians to plant trees on the day and nurture them to maturity as a way of contributing to the preservation of the environment. This when achieved, will get us to the destination Rwanda is heading.
Commitment to the Restoration of the environment
Through the protection and restoration of degraded ecosystems such as wetlands, lakes, and natural forests, Rwanda is conserving its environment. How did they do this? Forest reserves such as Nyungwe, Gishwati, and Mukura have been restored and upgraded into national parks. The promotion of these parks, home to a vast variety of flora and fauna, has contributed to the growth of the tourism sector that is currently the principal generator of foreign currency, with US$ 304.9 million and US$ 318 million revenue in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Located in the northern part of Rwanda, the Rugezi wetland (which had dried up because of human activities and climate change), was rehabilitated in 2005. Its restoration led to the recovery of water levels, increased hydropower production in Burera and Ruhondo lakes, and a boost for the country’s fishing sector. For this, Rwanda received a Green Globe Award in 2010.
A story my colleague Caleb Kudah produced a few days ago troubles me. He reported about how a Chinese Company is building an Oil Refinery on a WetLand in the Tema Newtown enclave. Sadly, authorities concerned are unable to step in to stop this because it appears some very powerful people are fueling it. This story and many others including the encroachment on the Sakumo Ramsar Site also known as the Sakumo Lagoon at the Sakumono section is devastating.
This is a wetland of international importance. It covers an area of 1,400 hectares (3,500 acres), and it is situated along the coastal road between Accra and Tema in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. It is about 3 km (1.9 mi) west of Tema. The Lands and Natural Resources Minister, the Greater Accra Regional Minister, and other relevant stakeholders must collaborate to halt this absurdity.
The Green Fund
How does Rwanda fund these deliberate policies and activities? It has established the Green Fund, a radical investment fund, the largest of its kind in Africa. The fund supports the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change, and that support Rwanda’s commitment to building a green economy. The Fund has mobilized around $100 million to date, and it is a leading example of the impact that well-managed climate financing can have.
I commend the government of Ghana for reviving the Polluter Pays Principle. This along with the newly introduced 10 pesewas Sanitation and Pollution Levy (SPL) would provide sustainable financing for sanitation and other related activities for players in the industry, and significantly fund sanitation activities.
As one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change, Rwanda is very aware of the challenges that lie ahead. It has therefore put in place systems, checks and balances to judiciously administer the Fund. Through this, the country is on its way to achieving its vision of a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy by 2050. It is my prayer that Ghana learns from her East African brothers.
The task was daunting for Rwanda. What did she do to achieve sustainable development, environmental sustainability? She deliberately took into consideration policies, legislation, and programs that will enable her to achieve her goal. Over the past years, the government has taken measures to ensure national development is in harmony with the protection of the environment. With her efforts to put the environment and climate change at the heart of her development, her Ministry of Natural Resources was recently accredited by the International Green Climate Fund. This is helping Rwanda attract significant climate finance, enough to enable it to maintain rapid economic growth on a resource-efficient, low-carbon, and climate-resilient path.
She is also benefiting from a Green Climate Fund off-grid solar project that will drive solar use in East Africa through a new investment fund, KawiSafi. This provides equity to clean energy companies with expertise in household solar power.
As a fast-growing nation, Rwanda is also doing away with old technologies and environmentally destructive development. It is now embracing technologies that can build an economy that can withstand a changing climate and that provides prosperity for generations to come.
Ghana must begin to embrace these deliberate policies and it will soon attract a lot of funding to sustain our quest to build a Green Ghana.
As my ride with my newfound love, Kigali, ends physically, I will continuously be attached to her because she treated me like a king from the Proud Ahafo Kingdom of Derma (my hometown in the Ahafo Region of Ghana).
I have to acknowledge some individuals and institutions for making it possible for me to meet Kigali. For the tour of the City of Kigali and the relevant resource, appreciation goes to the Mayor of Kigali, Pudence Rubingisa for providing the tour of Kigali.
He is focusing on public transport and green development. I thank the Mayor of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Mohammed Nii Adjei Sowah, who has assured me that he will begin to implement the best practices as exhibited by my love Kigali. I also thank my employers, Citi TV and Citi FM, in Accra, Ghana, who have always advocated a Green Ghana.
The writer is a Journalist with Citi TV and Citi FM, in Accra, Ghana, West of Africa.
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