Small-Scale Irrigation Technology Transforms Farmer Livelihoods In Rwanda
Farmers get better yields from improved access to irrigation.
In Kayonza district, part of Rwanda’s drier Eastern province, Beata Mukanyirigira (52), like most farmers, wanted to increase her yields and productivity including access to water for a higher income and better livelihood.
To confront this challenge, farmers in four districts, Bugesera, Ngoma, Kayonza, and Gatsibo, partnered with the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity, a five-year U.S. Agency for International Development activity implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), and local authorities to bring small-scale irrigation technologies (SSIT) to themselves and hundreds of their peers.
These technologies are small-scale, adaptable and fit for the irrigation needs of smallholder farms and the system is powered by solar energy, making it sustainable, environmentally friendly, and affordable. With support from Hinga Weze and the RAB, nine sites for this irrigation infrastructure have been completed and two sites are under development, covering a total of 200 hectares.
Once Hinga Weze and local authorities identify sites like these, farmers mobilize to consolidate land and form groups and cooperatives to best manage these irrigation systems. To date, over 10 cooperatives and savings groups have formed, attracting private sector partnerships from lending institutions, buyers, traders, and agrodealers. These partners supply agricultural inputs, offer employment opportunities for farmers who work on consolidated farms, provide access to markets, and more.
Because of this greater community cohesion, Hinga Weze could strengthen its relationship with local communities through farmer-led outreach and capacity building interventions. Through these efforts, farmers developed a knowledge base and capacity to manage irrigation infrastructure, contributing to the sustainability of the initiative. Farmers also learned good agriculture practices, which further supported improved crop productivity.
So far, over 1,200 households benefitted from access to the small-scale irrigation infrastructure and this number is expected to increase to include thousands of farmers as this infrastructure will eventually cover 300 total hectares throughout the life of the activity. This undertaking will significantly increase productivity, improve incomes and nutrition, ensure food security, and improve the quality of livelihoods for farmers.