A recent example of how environmental information is being used in Rwanda is the process that culminated with the publication of the 2009 state of the environment (SOE) report. The SOE report brings together information from the sectors to show the cause-and-effect linkages of human and natural actions and their impacts on the environment (REMA 2009). A key aspect of the SOE report is the analysis of national policies and strategies and tracking of progress in achieving these. The entire SOE process was a joint effort of REMA, lead agencies, major governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, the private sector and national experts in the different thematic areas.
Users of environmental data Figure 8: Major users of environmental information
The data produced by the institutions is used by a variety of stakeholders. More than two thirds of the data is used internally as shown in Figure 8.
Government departments, NGOs and the private sector are also significant users of this informa- tion. The varying uses that information is put to show increasing appreciation to utilize informa- tion as a resource. The more institutions under- stand the extent to which information can be used to support decisions, the greater the demand for it. Previously, such information support functions were not regarded as serious. But this is chang- ing, partly due to new policy requirements. For instance, the need for environmental impact as- sessment (EIA) prior to undertaking any envi- ronmentally related activity in Lesotho is fuelling the increased use of environmental data by other stakeholders (UNEP undated). EIA is also a legal requirement in Rwanda and will likely increase the demand for information.
As Rwandans appreciate the importance of environmental information, it will be used by a growing array of stakeholders. In Zambia the environ- ment information network and monitoring system project has for a long time facilitated the development of data and information products. Indeed the necessity of environmental information for planning has grown so much that it is now entrenched in the National Development Plan (ROZ 2006). For instance the SOE reports produced have been used to provide information to the Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP), the National Policy on the Environment and the Integrated Development Plan for Sol- wezi district (UNEP undated). The Lusaka Environment Outlook has con- tributed to the master plan for Lusaka city and the Tourism Action Plan being developed for Livingstone city.
Environmental information and public perceptions
One of the emerging challenges in applying packaged information is how to deal with already established perceptions of certain types of data. For in- stance, the apparent discrepancy between weather forecasts and the reality, has resulted in a certain degree of mistrust amongst the Rwandans public for weather reports broadcast by the media (Twahirwa 2009). So despite the fact that meteorological data is available for decision-making, it is sometimes ignored for this reason. According to the Department of Meteorology, some of the reasons for this could be a lack of knowledge on how to apply the
Major users of environmental information Internal
National government International agencies Private sector
Other – research or academic