Rwanda seeks to reduce ‘potent greenhouse gases’ from livestock

Faustin Munyazikwiye, the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority.

A national roadmap is being developed to reduce methane- a potent greenhouse gas that comprises 65 per cent of Rwanda’s total emissions, The New Times has learned.

The agriculture sector is the primary source of methane emissions in Rwanda, largely driven by the country’s livestock (cattle and small ruminant) sub-sector.

The emissions come from enteric fermentation and manure management and when livestock are ruminating.

ALSO READ: Agriculture contributes 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in Rwanda

“The development of the National Methane Roadmap is a pivotal component of our efforts. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas in Rwanda’s total emissions at 65%, and its reduction is essential for achieving our climate goals.

This roadmap will serve as a comprehensive guide, outlining strategies and actions to significantly cut methane emissions across various sectors, including agriculture, waste management, and energy,” said Faustin Munyazikwiye, Deputy Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA).

He said that this initiative is supported by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) secretariat and implemented under the expertise of the African Institute for Mathematical Science marking a significant step in Rwanda’s commitment to combating climate change and improving air quality.

He said that turning waste into energy is part of reducing methane gas which is among the global warming gases.

ALSO READ: When Rwanda took bold steps in fight against climate change

Munyazikwiye noted that although gases such as Methane, Black carbon, Tropospheric Ozone and Hydrofluorocarbons are short-lived climate pollutants, they are more dangerous than carbon dioxide.

“To better understand this, the global warming potential of methane gas is 21 times greater than that of carbon dioxide and thus we must mitigate them.”

The Short-lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) are responsible for up to 45% of current global warming and are known to have significant health impacts, contributing to around seven million premature deaths annually due to air pollution according to the World Health Organization.

The agriculture sector is the primary source of methane emissions in Rwanda, largely driven by the country’s livestock (cattle and small ruminant) sub-sector.Rwanda, with its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 38% by 2030, recognizes the importance of addressing these pollutants, he said.

The National Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Plan and Methane Roadmap project was funded by the Clean Air Coalition, which includes 144 countries, including Rwanda.

The main purpose of this project is to support the Government of Rwanda in adopting the measurement, reporting, and verification framework for short-lived climate pollutants emissions and integrating methane gas reduction actions into its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) or climate action pledges to be updated by 2025.

The NDCs or climate goals are at the heart of the Paris Agreement, embodying the efforts of each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

“These short-lived climate pollutants remain in the atmosphere for a shorter duration than other greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, and they have a great impact on global warming and air quality.

By addressing Short lived climate pollutants, we not only contribute to slowing down the rate of climate change but also achieve immediate benefits for public health and agriculture,” he said.

AIMS Network and Rwanda Centre President, Sam Yala emphasized on the need to empower professionals in climate change science, saying “Climate change remains one of the global challenges that require collective action from all of us…”

How to reduce methane gas emissions agriculture and livestock?

Upscaling the use of modern on-farm anaerobic digestion of manure for bioenergy (biodigesters) is a priority measure in Rwanda’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) or climate pledge to be implemented by 2030.

It is estimated that $62 million is required to implement this action by 2030.

Anaerobic digestion is reflected in Rwanda’s agriculture strategies and energy policy, which set out to promote the use of alternative fuels such as biogas derived from animal and plant waste as cooking fuel.

In addition to reducing methane emissions, the use of biogas is expected to provide additional benefits, including avoiding deforestation in a country where a large population in rural areas use firewood as a source of cooking fuel.

ALSO READ: Rwanda needs $1.37bn to reduce charcoal use by half

Grinding and pelleting of forages increases passage rate and reduces methane emitted by the cattle.

Feeding cows grains and fats, for example, results in reduced methane formation.

Fats are a high energy source that can be included as part of the diet and have been shown to have an inhibitory effect on methane production as fat can be toxic to methane producing microbes.

In 2019, scientists conducted an experiment by adding 1% of easily absorbed red seaweed to cows’ diets. This resulted in a staggering 60% reduction in methane emissions.

Similarly, the Dutch medical business Royal DSM has developed a chemical that limits methane production.

The company hopes to include the substance in animal feed in the future to help farmers limit the methane that is created during digestion, reported.

Meanwhile, researchers in New Zealand have identified the genetics of a microorganism that lives in the stomachs of cattle specialising in methane production.

If we can “attack” these bacteria with a vaccine – they claim – we will have an effective anti-methane vaccine.

Less complicated options include selective breeding. Eco-friendly breeds are the ones that develop more quickly.

The cattle breeds being recommended grow faster, require less feed and produce a significant amount of milk. For now, this is the best approach for farmers and livestock companies until anti-methane vaccines and anti-methane food reaches the global market.

Methane accounts for about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.



Michel Nkurunziza

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