UNILAK to host China-Africa joint research centre

The University of Lay Adventists of Kigali (UNILAK) will host the Rwanda Office of Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJOREC) that was inaugurated on November 8, 2023, during the 6thInternational Conference on Environment, Energy, and Development (ICEED2023) in Kigali.

The conference was held by the University of Lay Adventists of Kigali (UNILAK), in collaboration with the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography (XIEG), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJOREC).

The conference theme “Sustainable Management of Natural Resources” brought together experts, researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders from various fields to discuss and exchange ideas related to environmental sustainability, energy management, and sustainable development.

“The aim of the conference was to delve into cutting-edge research, highlight best practices, and showcase the most recent technologies designed to preserve the earth’s resources,” said Prof. Jean Ngamije, the Vice Chancellor of UNILAK warning that there are growing impacts of climate change, loss of biodiversity and natural resources depletion.

He said that the Rwanda office of the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJOREC) of the China Academy of Sciences is a result of a partnership that started 11 years ago.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (XIEG) and UNILAK, in 2022, committed to extend the partnership for more than five years up to 2026.

The partnership entered in 2012 has been very successful where several projects were achieved.

The cooperation was marked by strong academic and research collaboration in the areas of natural resources and environment, he said.

The capacity building saw UNILAK students and lecturers going for further studies in China and were awarded master’s and PhD degrees.

This cooperation has boosted research finding dissemination with UNILAK research publishing dozens of research papers in international journals.

Prof.Jean Ngamije said the SAJOREC Rwanda office which is a result of the partnership will continue to boost research on environment and natural resources management.

“The centre will help researchers to do their research in different domains on the environment and natural resources management. The research centre has the modern equipment, laboratories, having the capacity to analyze soil, water, GIS and remote sensing lab will support the scientists to do good researches,” he said.

He said the centre will be used by researchers from UNILAK, students, and other researchers who want to benefit from the centre.

“The centre is open. Being upgraded to the East African region, we will get experts from different countries. Capacity building will be improved. What is done in Rwanda will be at international level based on the capacity to do those researches,” he noted.

Prof.Chen Xi, the President of the Xinjiang Branch, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said that the cooperation with UNILAK over the past 11 years, jointly trained more than 30 masters and Ph.D. students.

“We carried out cooperative research projects on climate change, disaster prevention, flood forecast, and geographic information,” he said.

Prof. Wang Qingfeng, Director of the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJOREC) added that cooperation is still needed for China-Africa cooperative in biodiversity conservation, environment protection, and agriculture adaption while giving more changes to young people.

He said with the Rwanda office of SAJOREC, there will be more research in biodiversity conservation, climate change, and natural resources utilization as well as agriculture.

Also expected, he said, is capacity building for UNILAK to host a regional office, improve its research facility, and offer education programs for more students seeking master’s and Ph.D. degrees in China or in Rwanda.

Ambassador Wang on Rwanda-China cooperation in research

Amb. Wang Xuekun, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, encouraged scholars from China and Rwanda to work together to explore more areas of bilateral cooperation and achieve more results, to promote the high-quality development of the two countries.

He reiterated that the inaugurated the Rwandan Office of Sino-Africa Joint Research Center (SAJOREC), and the Chinese Academy of Sciences were born from a fruitful partnership.

“Rwanda is also a big advocate for green and sustainable development. Our two countries have cooperated in areas of energy and agriculture to advance Rwanda’s sustainable development. I believe we have more to share and cooperate in this area,” he noted.

He said Between 2012 and 2021, China has planted 64 million hectares, and restored more than 800,000 hectares of wetland, making China the country with the largest growth in forestry resources worldwide.

China has also greatly promoted clean and renewable energy, he added.

China’s installed generation capacity of renewable energy reached over 1 billion Kilowatt, making 44.8% of the total installed generation capacity.

It is also worth noting that the hydro, wind, and solar power installed generation capacities all reached over 300 million Kilowatt respectively, ranking the first in the world.

Call for research with a positive impact on the community

Dr Rose Mukankomeje, Director General of the Higher Education Council (HEC) told participants at the 6th International Conference on Environment, Energy, and Development (ICEED2023) that research is critical for sustainable development when it positively impacts the community.

“If we are talking about sustainable development, it implies that one needs to innovate,” she said.

Dr. Christophe Mupenzi, the Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies at UNILAK, presented research that analyzed soil and water in the Rwamagana district to guide the way to use appropriate agro-inputs and water for irrigation.

“We have to ensure researchers’ work has an impact on communities. The research on soil and water in Rwamagana availed basic information to help use appropriate quantity and suitable type of fertilizers to avoid impact on environment,” he said.

Mapendo Mindje, a researcher from University of Rwanda, said he is doing research about amphibians such as frogs, and how they can inform planning in wetland restoration.

He emphasized that the decline of specific amphibian species in areas like wetlands signifies degradation or alterations in these ecosystems, demanding immediate attention from policymakers for necessary intervention.

Daniel Nsengumuremyi said he is doing research on the extraction and application of lakesapropel in Rwanda for different purposes.

Sapropel is slimy sediment of marine, estuarine, or lacustrine deposition consisting largely of organic debris derived from aquatic plants and animals.

“Sapropel has multiple medicinal, agricultural, animal husbandry, and industrial applications. It can be used as an organic fertilizer. The kind of sediment can be used in animal feed additives in manufacturing, it can be used in sauna and others,” he said.

Other abstracts presented at the conference include research on flood risk over the Nyabarongo river basin, factors influencing malaria transmission in the Ngoma district, efficiency of Nyandungu wetland in enhancing water quality, landslides in the Northern part of Rwanda, forest restoration and conservation around Gishwati-Mukura national park and water scarcity due to climate change in Nyabugogo catchment.

They also include invasive plants in high-elevation wetlands of volcanoes national park, the use of cricket frass as an organic fertilizer, sustainable water resources management, variation of water quality influenced by land use and land cover in Lake Muhazi, solar power plant in Ruhango district, monthly rainfall and water balance in Kayonza, improved cookstoves and clean technologies in Bugesera among others including those from other countries.