FAO in Rwanda

There can’t be food without water; let us protect it.

Dagmawi Habte-Selassie from IFAD, Coumba Sow from FAO, Andrea Bagnoli from WFP

As it has been the practice over the past years, Rwanda is joining the rest of the world to celebrate World Food Day. For us, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the international commemoration on 16 October is a double celebration since the date coincided with the anniversary of its foundation in 1945. The theme of this World Food Day is ‘Water is life, water is food. Leave no one behind.’ The 2023 campaign underscores the pivotal role that water plays in securing our food and the entire agrifood system.

In Rwanda, the date will be marked on this 27 October 2023 with FAO, the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) to promote global awareness and call for action to support those suffering from hunger and ensure healthy diets for all. The three UN Rome Based Agencies are glad to join the Government and people of Rwanda as well as different partners in marking this important day, celebrated in Kayonza District.

At the recent FAO Rome Water Dialogue, from 4 to 5 October 2023, there was a unanimous agreement that this is indeed the year of water.

Also, the UN Water Conference held in New York in March 2023, recognized water as a critical issue deserving our immediate attention. It has become clear that water is a cross-cutting issue and addressing it will positively impact food production.

While plenty of solutions exist nowadays, they often remain fragmented and sector specific. Innovative projects and approaches are needed to bridge this gap. This, coupled with an ecosystem-based system and integrated water management of land, can be a lifesaver for the benefit of people and nature. Such approaches will help governments to design science- and evidence-based policies that harness data and innovation and coordinate across sectors to plan and manage water better.

We appreciate the efforts made by the Government of Rwanda and its continuous collaboration with the United Nations.

We congratulate the Government of Rwanda as among the achievement in last fiscal year, the country registered 82% of households using improved water source and access to improved sanitation & 721.2km of water supply networks were constructed, rehabilitated, and extended countrywide. Rwanda has also registered 68,126 ha under irrigation, comprising 37,273 ha of marshland, 8,780 ha of hillside, and 22,073 ha of small-scale irrigation, as per the 2021/2022 annual report of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI).

The efforts of enhancing irrigation efficiency continue as a strategic endeavor to transform the agricultural sector by reducing reliance on rain-fed agriculture in the face of climate change, aiming to foster a more prosperous and resilient agricultural landscape.

Water is not only a resource. Water is food and life and essential for agrifood systems. It supports all life forms on the planet; therefore, protecting and preserving water for a thriving planet is crucial. We all need to stop taking water for granted. Making informed decisions about what we consume, wasting less water and food, encouraging water-harvesting actions, and preventing pollution are easy things that all of us can do to contribute to positive Water Action for a brighter future for food, people, and the planet.

Nature-based Solutions, climate resilience, and the circular economy of water are all key priorities we need to keep interrogating to find relevant solutions tailored especially for low- and middle-income economies.

In recognition of these efforts, Rwanda was selected to host the 8th International Water Regulators Forum on 12 December 2023 which will deliberate on key priorities such as increasing awareness among water regulators, policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders about the different water governance and management settings.

In Rwanda, FAO and IFAD support small-scale irrigation schemes and agriculture water management by promoting its efficient use and productivity. Past interventions in irrigation and agriculture water management include support to enhance farmer-led, affordable, and productive small scale irrigation technologies (SSIT) from 2015, which tested different SSIT models and proved them sustainable. In addition, multipurpose water systems have been constructed for irrigation and domestic water use.

We work with the Government of Rwanda in promoting inclusive and sustainable water management by investing in optimizing water use, minimizing water losses, and improving water efficiency in rural areas. These multi-faceted investments address various dimensions of water security, ranging from resource conservation and infrastructure development to community empowerment. These encompass the development of irrigation schemes in drought-prone areas, enabling farmers to secure a reliable water supply for crop cultivation. Simultaneously, restoring catchment areas and empowering water user organizations to ensure the long-term sustainability of water infrastructure.

Furthermore, we support the establishment of water assets, including solar-powered boreholes and rainwater harvesting systems designed to cater to the water needs of livestock. FAO trained the government engineers by using SPIS tools developed by FAO and GIZ and installed bigger SPIS systems for the benefit of the farmers in different districts such as Bugesera, Kayonza, and Nyagatare.

We are also promoting conservation agriculture and solar-powered irrigation to enhance sustainable agricultural production to use water better for food and life, protect soil against heavy rain, and cultivate better yields in dry periods. As Rwanda is experiencing more frequent and intense heavy rains as well as longer dry spells due to climatic changes, FAO and WFP, together with other UN Agencies, also work with the Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA) and MINAGRI to reduce the risk of floods, anticipate and respond to climate shocks. In the context of home-grown school feeding, WFP furthermore connects schools to water supply systems and provides water filters to improve children’s access to safe, clean drinking water. Members of water user committees are trained to ensure that water pipelines and water points in communities surrounding schools are well managed and repaired.

Moving forward, as representatives of the 3 agencies, we are committed to work hand in hand with the government in Rwanda and development partners towards a water-resilient, food-secure, and inclusive and prosperous Rwanda.


Coumba Sow is the FAO Country Director and FAO Representative to Rwanda and Djibouti

Dagmawi Habte-Selassie is the IFAD Country Director and Representative to Rwanda and Burundi

Andrea Bagnoli is the WFP Country Director and Representative to Rwanda