Development of the Irrigation Master Plan for Rwanda

Rwanda’s economy mainly depends on the agricultural sector, particularly food crop production. Poverty reduction will therefore depend largely on efforts made on the modernisation of this sector. Thus, efforts made by the country to achieve MDG 1 – on eradicating of extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, depends on the level of investments made in the agricultural sector.


Although Rwanda possesses considerable water resources, they are not evenly distributed. For example, while water is abundant in the marshlands, facilities for storing it elsewhere for irrigation purposes are lacking. Farming during dry seasons is thus limited in most parts of Rwanda .Agriculture and livestock in the eastern parts of Rwanda, where rainfall is lowest, are especially affected. This situation created a need for a full, efficient and sustainable exploitation of water resources that can help to create sustainable production of food, cash, export and industrial crops.


One of the best options of achieving food security and improving the people’s living conditions is through the use of modern irrigation technologies. It is from this recognition that the government of Rwanda commissioned Ebony Enterprises Limited, an Israeli firm, for the development of an IMP to facilitate the management of water resources, promote irrigation and improve food security. Ebony subsequently partnered with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) to undertake this task in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) and, Rwanda Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). The aim of Rwanda’s IMP is to develop and manage water resources to promote intensive and sustainable irrigated agriculture and improve food security in Rwanda. Specifically, the objective of the IMP is to provide Rwanda with a planning tool for rational exploitation of its soil and water resources, at both national and district levels. This tool is intended to lead to an increase in crop production for local consumption, as well as to promote production of high-value crops.


In order to produce the IMP, ICRAF developed a flow chart matrix that identifies potential irrigation areas and water sources by mapping biophysical and socioeconomic parameters. Details of this work are provided in the IMP document which was launched on the 17th September 2010 in a ceremony graced by the Right Honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda and the Honourable Minister for MINAGRI. In her remarks, the Hon. Minister of MINAGRI, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, commended both ICRAF and Ebony for a job well done. A number of organizations from diplomatic missions, international research institutions, local NGOs and the community were represented during the launch of the IMP.


About  the Publication

This Irrigation Master Plan (IMP) highlights on how both surface (runoff, rivers and lakes) and underground water resources can be fully, efficiently and sustainably exploited by promoting irrigation in its various forms using a scientific tool developed by ICRAF in a GIS environment.

The IMP thus provides Rwanda with a planning tool for rational exploitation of its soil and water resources intended to trigger an increase in crop production of both staple foods for local consumption and high-value products for export.


The IMP supports decision making for the following: Identification of the most favourable areas to establish irrigation infrastructure; Estimation of irrigation water stock; Prioritization of irrigation water distribution; Recommendation of abstraction mechanisms; Identification of irrigation water conveyance mechanisms to the command areas; Establishment of irrigated agriculture in small, medium and large-scale projects on hillsides, marshlands and other topographically suitable areas; Identification of options for upgrading the agricultural value chain; Recommendations of options for water harvesting and storage; Production of district irrigation plan maps for the potential irrigation areas (PIAs) that could be irrigated by the different kinds of water resources by agroclimatic zone (ACZ) or even province level; and Articulation of the national policy options concerning the distribution of irrigation water.


In so doing, the IMP targets Rwanda’s various practitioners and stakeholders in government, local and external support agencies and communities – to ensure sustainable production of food, cash, export and industrial crops.




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