FAO in Rwanda

New project to strengthen Rwanda’s water governance, adaptation to climate change

A farmer irrigates his crops in rural Rwanda. Agriculture remains the largest consumers of water, requiring one hundred times more than water used for personal needs. ©FAO/Teopista Mutesi

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched a new project to enhance Rwanda’s water governance and management processes to address water scarcity and increased competition for water resources.

The project “Knowing water better: Towards fairer and more sustainable access to natural resources for greater food security (KnoWat)”, will be implemented also in Sri Lanka and Senegal. It is funded by the Government of Germany.

Rwanda, like other countries in the world, is experiencing the effects of climate change manifested through invariability in rainfall patterns, thus, increasing competition for water resources in allocation, access and management. The country has multiple needs for water use including small-scale farmers, pastoralists and fisher folk and is working towards improved access to water for all, as well as improving food security.

The Rwanda National Water Resources Master plan of 2012, cautions that water availability may be constrained in many river catchments in coming decades under plausible growth projections.

Globally, close to 2 billion people live in countries experiencing water scarcity, according to UN Water (SDG 6 Synthesis report 2018).

Prime Ngabonziza, Director General of the National Forest and Water Authority (RWFA), noted that the project will contribute to the government’s national capital account for water that brings together information on resources stocks and flows, uses and users, scarcities and potential to improve development decision.

“Rwanda’s rich water resources are under pressure due to population growth, intensification of agriculture, urbanization, climate change coupled with more extreme weather, adding to soil erosion, degradation and drought,” Prime added.

Introducing new technologies

The KnoWat project promotes an integrative approach to water resources assessments that takes into account biophysical, policy and socio-economic aspects of water use.

The three year project is expected to test and develop new methodologies, such as remote sensing technologies, water accounting and auditing that will allow to conduct a comprehensive water resources assessment and to evaluate water management and allocation options.  

In Rwanda, the project will be building on FAO’s previously implemented projects and studies around water use and management. The use of Yanze river water for local agricultural development in Rulindo District and for domestic use in Kigali City; and the feasibility of Small Scale Irrigation Technology (SSIT), including the assessment of the potential use of groundwater resources.

Going forward

A geospatial database will be established to allow the determination of agricultural water productivity using satellite images. Training will be conducted on the collection and use of data as well as the concepts of water accounting and auditing (WA&A) and water tenure assessment.

FAO Country Representative, Gualbert Gbehounou emphasized that water accounting and auditing contribute to efficient use of water and thus increase food security.

“Accounting for about 70 percent of the abstractions of fresh water worldwide, and 65 percent in Rwanda, agriculture is an important sector for water management. Food and water security directly depend on good planning of water resources, and on realizing the potential of irrigated and rainfed agriculture to improve water productivity, that is yield per drop of water”, Gualbert noted.

What is water accounting and water auditing?

Water accounting is the systematic study of the status of, and trends in, water supply, demand, accessibility and use in specified domains. Water auditing is an assessment of the socio-economic, legal and political environment in which water is managed, including governance structures, legislation, institutions, power imbalances, as well as public and private expenditure on water infrastructure. Water auditing also includes the assessment of water tenure, which relates to the rights and obligations of persons regarding water resources, both formal legal arrangements as well as informal rules and regulations. 

During the project implementation, FAO will be working with different partners and government actors such as, the Ministry of Environment (MoE), National Forest and Water Authority (RWFA), Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), and National Institute of Statistics (NISR), and Farmers’ organizations, Universities and research institutions and Civil society organizations.

Contributing to Sustainable Development Goals

The KnoWat project will contribute to SDG 2 on ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture; and SDG 6 on improving access to water and reducing the number of people suffering from water scarcity.


Teopista Mutesi | Communications Specialist | Email: [email protected] OR [email protected]