More effective and sustainable investments in water for poverty reduction

Investing in agricultural water management: a way to reduce rural poverty and improve food security in Rwanda


A group of experts in agricultural water management from FAO, IFAD, governmental institutions, research, development agencies and NGOs from Rwanda met in Kigali from 29 to 31 of March 2017 to map and assess the potential of water investments for poverty reduction in the country.

During the workshop, FAO proposed a participatory mapping approach to improve investment planning in agricultural water management, by assessing the needs of poor rural people in Rwanda and the role that water plays in their livelihoods, together with the availability of natural resources and other economic aspects of agricultural production, such as market and credit access.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources represented at the workshop by Mr. Innocent Nzeyimana, head of land husbandry, irrigation, and mechanization at Rwanda Agriculture Board called on stakeholders and partners to focus more on agriculture as most of the population depend on it. “Water irrigation systems should not be diverted to other equally important sectors such as Mining and Construction. In our country at least 80% of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihood” Nzeyimana told the participants.

Contrary to traditional investment planning which is mainly focused on the availability of land and water, the mapping methodology proposed by FAO also incorporates the specific needs of the different types of farmers.

FAO country representative to Rwanda, Attaher Maiga emphasized for the need to effective management of this scarce resource to enable farmers modernize their agricultural activities: “This project aims to respond to the challenge related to how to grow more food, increase incomes, reduce poverty, and protect the environment through the design and implementation of high-quality investments in agricultural water through Research and Development, Capacity Development and Policy Dialogue” he stated.

Participants that also included farmers and extension workers identified the main livelihood zones and the areas where water investment will have more impact. They also assessed the suitability of the main small-scale irrigation technologies which have been identified as priority to reducing rural poverty in the country such as; river diversion schemes, soil and water conservation, rainwater harvesting and groundwater development. Irrigation methods should be observed in relation to the crops and the size of land that is being used. The pricing of the various technologies should be of a reasonable amount for farmers to be able to afford them and acquire the motivation to buy them” Ntagengerwa Eugene a farmer from Bugesera observed.

The workshop is organized in the framework of the project “More effective and sustainable investments in water for poverty reduction” which aims at improving food security and reducing rural poverty of smallholder farmers through providing guidance and technical support to enhance the quality, impact and sustainability of water investments. It is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Programme on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). It is implemented in Rwanda by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. The project involves six African countries: Rwanda, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger and Tanzania and foresees the sharing of experiences among the project countries.

A priority for rural development in Rwanda

Water is a fundamental asset for improving the livelihoods of smallholders and family farmers in Rwanda. Sufficient availability and reliable access to water is crucial, not only to food production, but also to social and economic development and sustainability. While investments in agricultural water management are key to increasing the productivity of poor farmers and reducing rural poverty, they often neglect considering the real needs and capacities of the local population or their market potential.

Achieving SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)

Investments in water is an enabler and entry point for equitable and sustainable socio-economic development. Enhancing access to water for agricultural productive will be strongly emphasized so as to ensure an ecological sustainability. “Promote sustainable agriculture” is tacked onto the proposed Goal 2, “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition”. Access to water for agriculture will play a crucial role for improving agricultural productivity and reducing poverty, hence, ending hunger in Rwanda.

A recent inventory of marshlands in Rwanda conducted in 2008 showed that Rwanda has got 962 water bodies and 860 marshlands.