Rwanda is a hilly country with excessive steep slopes which complicates agricultural farming activities; such landscape is frequently subjected to severe erosion and soil fertility depletion that affect crop productivity. Crop production and productivity at such landscape requires additional investments on the land in terms of soil conservation technologies, which include sustainable land husbandry, water harvesting and hillside irrigation practices.
It’s against this back ground that, in 2010, the Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources initiated the Land Husbandry, Water harvesting and Hillside irrigation Project (LWH) through a basket funding from various Multi-donor organisations.
LWH was jointly funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank Group, the Global Agriculture & Food Security Program (GAFSP), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the counterpart funding from the Government of Rwanda.
The Project Development Objective (PDO) was to increase the productivity and commercialization of hillside agriculture in target areas and as well reduce at all costs soil erosion while introducing hillside irrigation in the country.
The Project was implemented under 3 different components as outlined below:
---Component - A: Capacity Development and Institutional Strengthening for Hillside Intensification
---Component - B: Infrastructure for Hillside Intensification
---Component - C: Project coordination and support - Implementation through the Ministerial Sector Wide Approach (SWAp) Structure
During implementation, LWH project applied a modified watershed approach to introduce comprehensive sustainable land husbandry technologies through hillside transformation by soil erosion control and increasing soil fertility to boost the land productivity on some selected sites (CFE), as well as develop water retention dams for hillside irrigation.
The Project was implemented in 15 sites across 13 Districts (Nyanza, Gatsibo, Rwamagana, Kayonza, Ngoma, Rulindo, Gicumbi, Rutsiro, Nyabihu, Ngororero, Gakenke, Nyamagabe and Burera) countrywide.
Site selection was guided by common criteria for the entire LWH Program and include (i) social criteria (responsiveness/interest of beneficiaries; district leadership and ownership; level of social impact, including the number of beneficiaries on the site, the proportion of female-headed households therein, rainfall and livelihood factors such as flood risk and drought prevalence; and the number of displaced households relative to the site size); (ii) economic criteria (site-specific rate of return, year-round access to markets); and (iii) technical and environmental criteria (sufficient water harvesting potential for command size; severity of soil erosion; a moisture regime where water harvesting and irrigation makes a difference, i.e. distribution of rainfall over the year, coincidence of excess rainfall and drought); and the level of environmental impact of the watershed and on downstream marshlands.
The Project activities included extensive continuous community sensitization and participatory approaches to ensure that people fully participate in their own transformation. Communities were further supported to form self-help groups which led to cooperative formation. A wide range of capacity building programs were carried out for farmers and other institutions that support agriculture and extension services like Districts, financial institutions and the private sector.
The overall performance of LWH project was indicated by increased crop productivity by three to five times at the rain-fed project sites.
The LWH project closed its activities on 29 June 2018, leaving its beneficiaries with good agriculture infrastructures for irrigation, water harvesting and terraced lands that will allow them to cultivate all the three (3) agricultural seasons. Compared to the period when the project started in 2010, farmers have managed to change their mindset due to various trainings conducted by the project to improve their skills and knowledge in agricultural practices and in operation and management of the water infrastructures. In addition, their livelihoods have been improved as they have now shifted from subsistence to commercial agriculture, with a very well gender balance representation.
Some of the recorded LWH achievements
· About 21,648ha (out of a target of 19,940ha) were treated with comprehensive land husbandry technologies across LWH sites, including 2,555ha developed for irrigation in seven (7) sites (i.e. Karongi – 12, Karongi – 13, Nyanza – 23, Kayonza – 4, Gatsibo – 8, Rwamagana – 34 and Muyanza). The marketed portion of the produce increased from 35% to 80.6%; farmers income from sales increased by 130%, while access to finance by farmers increased by 85.1% - with women increasing by 83% and men by 88%.
· The Project benefited over 69,363 beneficiary householdsLand Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation Project grouped into 3,270 Self-Help Groups (SHGs of 15-20 people each one), while the total number of the project direct beneficiaries (i.e. households’ beneficiaries including their family members and the indirect beneficiaries) is 318,255 people, from which 49% are female beneficiaries, exceeding its target of 120,000 people.
· The Project exceeded the target of these 3 indicators with $ 5,639/ha/year of gross productivity in irrigated command area out of a target of $ 2,800/ha; $ 3,471/Ha/year of gross productivity in non-irrigated hillsides out of $ 2,500/ha/year and 80.2% of commercialized products in project areas out of 70% of the target.
· Under LWH Project, 27 cooperatives were established in different intervention sites, namely Gatsibo-8, Gicumbi, Kayonza-4, Karongi-12, Karongi-13, Muyanza, Ngoma-22, Ngororero, Nyabihu, Nyamagabe, Nyanza-23, Rutsiro-A, Rutsiro-B, Rwamagana-34 and Rwamagana-35, and they are now registered at the Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA) which is the Government’s regulatory authority for cooperatives. In addition, the project contributed to mobilize farmers to register as members of the cooperatives.
· About 62,678 farmers were registered as members in the 27 cooperatives established at the LWH sites, and about 47% of the members are female.
· The Project also established Water User Associations in the hillside irrigation sites, namely Gatsibo-8, Kayonza-4, Karongi-12, Karongi-13, Muyanza, Nyanza-23, and Rwamagana-34 to focus on water management, and on operation and maintenance of the water infrastructures.
· 7 WUAs were created with 8,671 members, which include 48% of female. Besides, only the WUAs of Kayonza-4 and Nyanza-23 were secured so far with permanent legal personality; Karongi-12 and Karongi-13 have got so far provisional legal personality, whereas Gatsibo-8, Muyanza and Rwamagana-34 have only the District Licence Certificate while they wait to be upgraded to the full licensing process. All WUAs are all operational at the hillside irrigation sites.
· The Project built post-harvest handling infrastructures in order to reduce post-harvest losses and to strengthen marketing systems. These include: (i) 42 storages facilities; (ii) 45 drying shelters; (iii) 4 collection centers for banana; (iv) 10 horticulture collection centers including charcoal coolers; and (v) 147 temporary drying facilities constructed during harvesting seasons. 10 collection centers with cooling facilities are under construction at Ngoma-22, Nyanza-23, Rwamagana-34, Gatsibo-8, Muyanza and Kayonza-4 sites.
· For the provision of the postharvest equipment, the project has assisted the farmers in maintaining the quality of marketed produce. For that purpose, the project supported youth cooperatives that is working with farmers at Nyanza-23 site with 150 plastic crates that they are sharing with them in order to transfer their expertise in horticultural production technologies to farmers. In addition to that, to date, the project provided: (i) 28 maize Sheller machines; (ii) 16 wheat thresher/winnower machines; (iii) 3,287 pallets; (iv) 43 weighing balances; (v) 52 moisture meters; and (vi) 650 plastic crates to 25 cooperatives.
· The Project supported the farmers by linking them with potential local buyers not only for horticulture production but also for other crop products like maize, soybeans, etc. The main buyers include PRODEV, EUCORD, CHAI, Bugesera Agribusiness Company (BABC), Africa Improved Food (AIF), East Africa Exchange, RGCC and local traders.
· For rural finance, about 46,950 farmers were recorded as having opened bank accounts at various MFIs; 41% of them were female.
· About 488 lead farmers were trained in business plan writing and entrepreneurship and postharvest handling. Among these trainees, 250 (51%) were males against 238 (49%) females.
· Farmers’ savings in LWH intervention areas were increased up-to 294,673,100 Frw across all the project sites, i.e. an increase of 48.6% compared to savings recorded in 2017 (198,355,960 Frw).
· From 2017, farmer’s revenues and savings increased significantly due to commercialization and increased exports of horticulture high value crops. In season A2018, the individual farmers and cooperatives generated around 503,360,660 Frw from horticulture.
In conclusion, LWH project registered tremendous achievements, and its impacts were also recognized by the project beneficiaries because of their improved livelihoods following the increase of the family incomes got from increased crops’ production and productivity and commercialization of the agricultural products.