Land & Water

Sharing water in Rwanda’s breadbasket

The Nyagatare district located in the Eastern Province of Rwanda is Rwanda’s breadbasket - a vast area of agricultural land providing food for the entire country. The people of this district are mainly farmers, rearing livestock and cultivating crops such as maize and rice. Nevertheless, they suffer a long dry season stretching from June to mid-September and, consequently, water has always been a vital, much sought-after resource - with competition for it high.

In 2015, the Rwandan government, together with financial support from the World Bank, constructed a USD10 million dam and water reservoir.

Before long, however, farmers cultivating the upper hillside would cut off at least an eighth of the rainwater that flowed into the catchment below, leaving farmers and cattle keepers downhill struggling. Conflicts arose and a solution to the problem was needed.

FAO, in collabration with the European Union (EU) and Agrinatura - a consortium of 31 European universities and research institutes -, implemented the "Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems - CDAIS" project to help individuals, organizations and national bodies involved in innovating agricultural sectors to navigate problems and improve collaboration through dialogue. The project uses a community-based approach that works through reflection, group learning and increased engagement, helping farmers to better adapt innovative methods.

Athanase Mahoni, one of the farmers involved, said that the CDAIS training “empowered farmers to solve their own problems”. Indeed, through CDAIS everyone got to know each other, learnt to listen, leading to better communication, understanding and a new mutual trust.

The benefits of the approach are increasingly obvious: better sharing of water and improved farming practices have led to an increase in productivity.

Read more about the CDAIS project