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when Africa suffered from droughts and from

colder temperatures. Consequently, it is an

extremely important area that has to be

conserved in case there are significant changes

in climate again; this is because it is guaranteed

that rainforests can resist such modifications.

“On the other hand, it’s also the region where

we have the source of the Nile and where many

tributaries run into the Congo River, and so it is

extremely important, not only for Rwanda, but

also for the whole African continent – as well

as globally.”

Future study

With extensive scientific connections in both

Europe and Africa, Fischer is very keen to reap

the benefits and realise the resources of the

EU’s latest research and innovation framework

programme. He sees the biodiversity study

undertaken in Rwanda as the type of project

O

bserving the changes in biodiversity is a major

indicator of the long term impact of climate change.

With the Earth already having experienced both rising

and falling temperatures, assessing the adjustments in

biodiversity can help provide clues to how humans need to adapt

in a changing environment.

Professor Dr Eberhard Fischer has just returned from a study trip to

Rwanda, his 80th trip to the sub-Saharan African state. The researcher is

one of Europe’s leading scientists in the field and leads the botany and

biodiversity working group at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany.

After returning, Portal spoke to Fischer, who began by detailing the reasons

for his visit and the wide-ranging research network he has developed during

his frequent trips to the country: “The first purpose was to accompany a

delegation of the Minister of Environment of the federal state of Rhineland-

Palatinate, Ulrike Höfken, who wanted to see some of our projects. The

second part of the trip was to renew contact with partners and undertake

research in the rainforest, which lasted over a week.

“I’ve been travelling to Rwanda for 31 years and have built longstanding

co-operation not only with the Rwandan Development Board, which is

responsible for the national parks, but also with the Rwandan Ministry

of Natural Resources, the Rwanda Environment Management Authority

and the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority.”

Multiple projects

Fischer then detailed two major projects he has undertaken during his

recent visits, focusing on agri-forestry and biodiversity.

“The first project ended last year in August. It was financed by the

German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation,

Building and Nuclear Safety and focused on climate protection. The aim

of the project was to help build up the agri-forestry belt in the southeast

of the Nyungwe National Park, which is home to one of the most diverse

rainforests in Africa.

“Our agro-forestry research saw us use mainly indigenous trees, though

also exotic trees, in helping develop the belt. The farmer is expected to

plant the trees on their fields to help encourage agro-forestry systems

that are of benefit for the conservation of soil, thus reducing erosion.

Many rainforest ecosystems can be protected by agro-forestry systems,

for example fuel wood and medicinal plants.

“The second project was a biodiversity study of the rainforest in the

context of climate change. Nyungwe National Park and mountain forest

are one of these refugal areas that survived during the last glacial period

I S S U E S E V E N

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L

www.horizon2020projects.com

212

S O C I E TA L C H A L L E N G E S : C L I M AT E A C T I O N

Growing roots

Speaking to

Portal, Professor Dr Eberhard Fischer,

of the University of

Koblenz-Landau, provides an insight into his research ventures in Rwanda and

how he hopes to secure financing from Horizon 2020

Professor Dr Eberhard

Fischer

©EberhardFischer

The forests of Rwanda

are home to rich and

diverse biodiversity