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Development of an Irrigation

Master Plan for Rwanda

• Although the agriculture sector in Rwanda employs
90% of the labour force, the food and nutrition
needs of the population cannot presently be met, as
evidenced by the high prevalence of malnutrition
• Moreover, agriculture, despite its high potential,
does not contribute substantial revenue to the
economy. Rwandan agriculture is primarily
undertaken at the subsistence level, providing little
surplus for local markets.
• The introduction of irrigation, together with
associated agricultural operations, can greatly
change this situation.
• As a first step towards changing this situation, the
Government of Rwanda through its Ministry of
Agriculture initiated a study to develop an Irrigation
Master Plan (IMP).
• The overal aim of an IMP for Rwanda was to develop
and manage water resources to promote intensive
and sustainable irrigated agriculture and to improve
food security.
Objective of IMP
The planning tool will support decision making by:
• identifying the most favourable areas to establish
irrigation water infrastructure;
• prioritizing distribution of irrigation water;
• identifying means of transporting water to
selected sites; and
• Establishing irrigated agriculture in small-,
medium- and large-scale projects on hillsides,
marshlands and other topographically suitable
Data requirements
• In this study, GIS was used as the central tool for data
handling and analysis.
• Data collected for analysis in a GIS environment were
categorized into four groups:
– Administrative and infrastructural: political
subdivisions, roads, electricity;
– Land and soils: land use, land cover, geology,
lithology, geomorphology, soil types, topographic
– Climate: temperature, precipitation, PET, ACZs;
– Water resources: hydrology - hydrography,
IMP Planning tool
• In order to produce the IMP, ICRAF developed a
flow chart matrix that guides in identification of
arable areas and water sources.
• The matrix uses MCA in GIS a environment to
map biophysical and socioeconomic parameters
for irrigation.
• The matrix also assesses the financial and
economic issues involved in the implementation
of each irrigation scenario (currently on going)
The Flow Chart depicts the process & activities culminating in the production of the IMP
along with its validation through piloting.

Slope and Relief Produce maps showing suitable

Analyze slope & relief data slope/relief by ranks & watersheds.

Soil Type Produce maps showing suitable

Analyze pedological data soils & ranking for irrigation

Land use/Vegetation Produce Map showing land

Analyze land use data use/Land cover
Climatic data
Produce maps depicting climatic
Analyze climatological data ≥ 30 year

Rainwater partitioning at national level

Rainfall Runoff Surface water Groundwater

potentials potential potentials potentials

Use ranking to run

Produce water
Produce a water balance MCA Level 1 in GIS
potential maps
Produce district plan maps
Study methodology
Annual average precipitation
Annual average temperature
Water resources
The GIS methodology
Fields with potential for irrigated agriculture
would fulfill the following criteria expressed as a
series of conditions:
• Well-drained sandy clay to clay, deep soil
• Up to 40% slope (although 16–40% slopes are
discouraged unless tree crops are planted or
radical terraces are established to avoid
landslides—detailed studies must therefore be
conducted on sites with these slope categories)
• Political location (province, district, sector)
• Location outside gazetted areas (national
parks, forests, protected marshlands, urban
• Specific ACZ
• Proximity to electricity (to power the pumps)
• Accessibility (roads)
• Proximity to water resources.
P/PET ratio
Slope classes
Soil suitability
In order to utilise the least-cost technological
options for water abstraction and distribution,
the IMP partitioned the country into six irrigation
Rwanda’s irrigation domains are thus categorized
• Runoff for small reservoirs
• Runoff for dams
• Direct river and flood water
• Lake water resources
• Groundwater resources
• Marshlands
Irrigation water sources domains
Rainwater partitioning
Potential Dam Sites
River water Domains
Lake water Domains
Summary of potential irrigable
The assessment of Rwanda’s irrigation potential
indicates that the country has a national irrigation
potential of 589 713 ha, taking into consideration
the following domains:
• Runoff for small reservoirs (125 627 ha)
• Runoff for dams (27 907 ha)
• Direct river and flood water (79 847 ha)
• Lake water resources (100 107 ha)
• Groundwater resources (36 432 ha)
• Marshlands (219 793 ha)
Examples of District plan maps