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Up-scaling of Agricultural Rainwater Harvesting Interventions in Rwanda



The Government of Rwanda, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate implementation of an agricultural rainwater harvesting project at selected sites in Rwanda worth USD. 133,366. The agreement was initially planned to be implemented between 1st April and 30th September 2007, but was extended to 31 December 2007 due to adjustments to the overall work plan. The main objectives of the MoU were : To provide advisory services to the Ministry on developing an integrated master plan for implementing appropriate Rainwater harvesting and related interventions.


To assist MINAGRI in establishing at least 3 Best Practices Scaling up sites on Rainwater harvesting and related water use and saving technologies such as drip irrigation, conservation agriculture and Agroforestry; and in collaboration with MINAGRI, assist chosen districts to initiate training of key stakeholders in rainwater harvesting and setting up of demonstration sites. The selected districts received funds from the Government of Rwanda to start up rainwater harvesting activities.


Landsat satellite images (30metres resolution), Rwanda's national scale digital elevation model (DEM) and Rwanda's one kilometer (1km) resolution rainfall data were procured for the mapping of RWH potential at national scale. Processing of these data along with the mapping exercises were conducted at the ICRAF-GIS Laboratory. In-situ, runoff and rooftop development domains have already been mapped and analyzed at national and provincial scales.


In addition, four Aster satellite images of 15 metre resolution and Rwanda topographical maps were also procured. Three aster images data were analyzed and Landuse/Landcover layers produced. The other planned activities mainly creating 25m digital elevation models in 2 and 3 dimensions, calculating harvestable rainwater for the three main development domains at district level (second level analysis) for selected districts and producing the necessary maps is currently underway and is due to be completed.


Finally, Quick bird satellite images of 61centimetre resolution for detailed watershed planning were procured. Soil data for Rwanda is yet to be received from the government of Rwanda. Upon completion of the GIS analysis and mapping activities, a more detailed report will be prepared describing all the GIS analysis activities carried out along with the products in the form of maps produced from the analysis.


In order to initiate field operations, experienced Rainwater Harvesting Specialists Field Implementation (RWAFI) were deployed to Rwanda to work in close consultation with MINAGRI, Rwanda Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the community. RADA provided the day to day supervision of activities on the ground. ICRAF provided technical support to generate outputs aimed at mapping out rainwater harvesting potential for the Republic of Rwanda, conducting training needs assessment, producing manuals for educating Rwandese on rainwater harvesting and finally, enhancing the capacity of key stakeholders in the country to practice rainwater harvesting activities.


The RWH interventions implemented and established during this period aimed at increasing water availability in the agriculture sector using simple decentralised, participatory, locale specific rainwater harvesting technologies. The interventions addressed the following key issues: loss of runoff and inadequate storage; inappropriate farming methods; inadequate skills and knowledge on RWH; environmental degradation and low soil fertility


To realize the objectives, a comprehensive action plan elaborating rainwater harvesting activities to be carried out was developed and submitted to MINAGRI. This was discussed and approved, setting the stage for implementation of activities aimed at increasing water availability in the agriculture sector in Rwanda.


The immediate major success of the project was the introduction and formation of Common Interest Groups (CIGs) as an approach to implementation. Beneficially farmers were brought together and organized into operational CIGs to address and implement the production of mangoes, pawpaw and vegetables. The long term measure is to organize these groups into farmer field schools, eventually graduating to form cooperatives. The formation of the CIGs made it easier for the Project Management Team at field level (ICRAF and RADA) to provide technical and logistical facilitation. The project targeted all male and female headed households living in the operational areas.


Following these efforts, 2,765 community members were mobilized and sensitized on rainwater harvesting using PRA methodology. Twenty six Common Interest Groups (CIGs) were formed. Community mobilization was conducted to create awareness on the project and mobilize the target groups. The first step was to make households and the targeted institutions recognise the importance and value of rainwater harvesting for their own lives. RADA supported the ICRAF field implementation team to meet the District Mayors, District Agronomes, Executive secretaries, Cell secretaries and Umudugudu leaders in order to facilitate access to the community.


On the technical front, a combination of GIS and technical ground truthing was important in the planning and design of the water harvesting technologies. Since implementation would be based on the hydrologic units, the GIS tools were crucial in the following areas: assessing the water resources potential at national, regional and local scales; identifying the scaling up best practices sites; and determining relevant technologies for implementation. All the three major water resources i.e. rainfall, runoff and groundwater were recognized and categorized according to utilization. Direct rainfall was considered for conservation agriculture while runoff and groundwater were both considered for supplementary irrigation. The major technical accomplishment was capacity building where practical training was conducted for the agronomes, artisans, technicians and farmers. During the training sessions, a lot of structures were installed in the ground. Below are summaries of achievements in respect to the work plan.


Identification and establishment of appropriate RWH demo-sites Nine sites were identified in Eastern and Southern Provinces using GIS technology. This was reinforced by ground truthing where a rapid mapping using Garmin XL12 and G60 was done to establish the span of the expected project sites. Regional GIS maps capturing the hydro-physical features were produced by ICRAF. In Eastern Province, there are three sites in Bugesera District one each in Kibungo and Kanzenze, Cygaro Sectors. In Southern Province, there are seven sites, one each in the three sectors of Nyanza and four sites in Ruhango sector. GPS data for the selected areas were finalized and submitted to MINAGRI.


ICRAF Water Management Unit designed standardized, trapezoidally-shaped ponds and underground tanks with off-stream runoff water conveyance mechanisms. Following the designs, 65 runoff ponds with capacities of 120 m3 were excavated, lined with 0.8 mm plastic materials specially made to fit the trapezoidal shapes. Rope-&-washer, siphon or treadle pumps for water abstraction were installed in the underground tanks or ponds. This activity was done through on-the-job training of 40 artisans, 3 technicians and 59 agronomes in layout and construction of in-situ and ex-situ rainwater harvesting structures. In addition 14 cylindrical underground tanks of 20 m3 capacities were also excavated. The underground tanks and ponds were connected to 2500m2 farm plots each with pits for mangoes and pawpaws. ICRAF Rwanda helped organise the supply of seedlings from Uganda. A lot of pawpaws were damaged during transportation from Kabale to Kigali. Originally, 7200 holes for pawpaws and 1765 holes for mangoes were excavated in readiness for planting. However only 1075 pawpaws and 1075 mango survived the transplanting.


The potential for in-situ water harvesting which entails harnessing of direct rainfall for agricultural production was estimated for 8.3 km3 for the whole of Rwanda. Of this, Eastern, Kigali, Northern, Southern and Western provinces received 1.6, 0.5, 1.4, 2.6 and 2.3 km3 respectively. This potential can be tapped by adopting conservation agriculture practice in Rwanda.


Conservation agriculture was successfully introduced during the months of August and September 2007. It entails the simultaneous practice of minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotation. A total of 175 farmers and community leaders, 30 agronoms and 17 technicians were trained in this technology. 90 farm plots for demonstration were volunteered by farmers. However, start up of the demo plots did not take off due to lack of inputs such as fertilizers and herbicides. It is hoped that owing to during the coming rainy season, inputs will be purchased in time to allow for the implementation of the technology. Detailed report for this technology is provided for in Dossier No. Rw0407.


Two sites were identified and prospected in Ntarama Sector in Bugesera District for dug out ponds and wells construction. The ICRAF field implementation team organised the community into an association called Community Organization Development of Kayenzi (SODEKA). The Secretary General and the Mayor organised with the STRABAG company to provide and excavator which will be used to do the initially excavation of the two ponds. Each pond has a capacity of 1000 m3 whose water will be used for irrigation.


Strategies deployed to upscale activities initiated by the RWH project Scaling up strategy rests in building capacity to all relevant stakeholders in the rainwater harvesting project. These include the community itself, agricultural extension officers, technicians and policy makers at regional and national levels. Scaling up also needs tremendous financial backing. To address this, MINAGRI commissioned ICRAF, through Dr. Azene Bekele Tessema, to compile a USD. 200 million dollar proposal on rainwater harvesting for the entire Republic of Rwanda.



This report was finalized by November 2007. By mid 2008, half of this amount, USD. 100 million had been disbursed, triggering a beehive of activities. A number of specialists in irrigation engineering, GIS and socio-economy were recruited from Kenya and Ethiopia to initiate the implementation of hill-side irrigation in Rwanda.


Impacts and lessons learnt on upscaling of rainwater harvesting in Rwanda
The success of this project is evident in the rapid technological uptake by farmers and institutions in Rwanda and the interest the Government has taken in promoting RWH technologies. The major beneficiaries have been farmers, technicians and frontline extension agents. By December 2007, it was evident that RADA extension agents were able to supervise the construction and lining of ponds while farmers developed a lot of interest in conservation agriculture. Although the ponds were meant for crop production, inhabitants became realized their importance in domestic water utilization. This is a pointer to the fact that future projects should be integrated.


Rainwater harvesting is the starting point for economic and ecological regeneration
A study conducted by ICRAF in western and Rift Valley regions in Kenya indicate that water is the entry point to rural development. Harnessing of rain through water harvesting and conservation agriculture provides the basis for productive ventures that are so crucial in the enhancement of rural households owing to food self sufficiency and upgrade of rural economies.


Impacts of agricultural water harvesting depends on the availability of supplementary water or soil moisture regime For annual crops, changes in yield is immediate. Perennial crops takes a few years before the impacts are realized. With good agricultural husbandry, it is possible to realise good returns when availability of water/moisture is integrated with soil fertility management.


Water harvesting is a process of social mobilisation
We have learnt that water harvesting is more than a matter of constructing ponds, dams, dugwells or tanks; it is a slow process of creating; of organising communities to develop, maintain and manage water harvesting activities; of involving communities closely in every aspect of water harvesting; and, finally, of setting up systems of using and sharing the water sustainably and equitably. This is also precisely the reason why it has to be a matter of community involvement and participation. What is really crucial is therefore to create awareness and confidence that water harvesting works.


Government should play the role of enabler rather than implementer
The role of the government should be that of an enabler rather than the doer. The government has an important role to play in catalyzing widespread practice of water harvesting. The government could provide the services of scientific organizations that could lead to better design of the systems. The most important role would be in providing financial incentives and grants both in rural and urban areas.




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