How Rwanda Became One of the Cleanest Nations on Earth

How Rwanda Became One of the Cleanest Nations on Earth

An increase in forest cover
Tropical rain forest, Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda, Africa, wide formatTetyana Dotsenko/Shutterstock

Rwanda has become one of the cleanest nations on Earth because of its ambitious environmental goal of "increasing forest cover to 30 percent of total land area by 2020," per the World Economic Forum. To achieve this, the country has undertaken massive reforestation and tree-planting efforts. Additionally, new measures such as "agro-forestry" and "training schemes in forest management" are being implemented. Together with the plastic-bag ban, these initiatives helped Rwanda receive a Future Policy Award from World Future in 2011.

Planting trees to clean up a country

Tea plantation and tropical forest, sunny day, Rwanda,Nyungwe, selective focusTetyana Dotsenko/Shutterstock

The forest-cover goal has nearly been met already, thanks to the 2018–2019 planting season. According to the New Times, "38,119 hectares of agro-forestry, 4,800 hectares of classic forestry, and 225,440 fruit trees were planted across Rwanda. This is in addition to some 670 hectares of degraded forests, which rehabilitated." Now, 29.8 percent of Rwanda is covered in forest. Rwanda is cleaner than almost any country on Earth, and it's also one of the countries that's safer than you think.


Group of Rwandan women in colorful traditionals clothes wearing washbowls on their heads, Kigali, RwandaVadim Nefedoff/Shutterstock

Umuganda, a Kinyarwanda word that translates as "coming together in common purpose," is the name of the monthly community cleanup held on the last Saturday of every month. NPR notes that this holistic community effort to clean up the country "is one reason that Rwanda is renowned in Africa for its cleanliness."

But cleaning up Rwanda is not a volunteer project. On paper, Umuganda is a Utopian community fantasy project, in which people come together each month to keep their neighborhood, town, city, and country clean. But according to NPR, "police monitor the streets and can stop Rwandans who aren't participating and make them clean up on the spot." The penalties for not taking part in Umuganda are severe for Rwandans. Fines can be issued for up to 5,000 francs, nearly $6. That's not an insignificant amount when the average income translates to roughly $150 a month.

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