Gaps Rwanda has to close on its path to a middle-income country

The disconnect between sectors at the national and district levels poses a considerable long-term threat to sustainable resource use and ecosystems preservation, a study finds out.

The disconnect between sectors at the national and district levels poses a considerable long-term threat to sustainable resource use and ecosystems preservation, a study finds out.

Rwanda seeks to become a middle-income country by 2020. Crucial for reaching this aim is the transition of the agriculture and energy sector. This development could even increase the pressure on resources, especially with ongoing population growth and urbanization. To avoid it, good policies must be implemented and put in place. Rwanda’s ambition to pursue a climate resilient green growth development pathway are laudable. Already, significant work is underway to make this pathway a reality. 

However, a study undertaken by Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)and the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS), that looked at how the water-energy-food security nexus approach can help promote climate-resilient decisions and model actions in the three selected landscapes along Akagera Basin, shows that the disconnect between sectors at the national and district levels poses a considerable long-term threat to sustainable resource use and ecosystems preservation. The sudy recommends more strategic planning, multi-stakeholder dialogue, up-scaled support for disseminating existing solutions, and continued landscape monitoring and evaluation to overcome those issues.

Future scenarios for 2050 were drawn, according to the implementation status of the national plans. They all share a continuing pressure on ressources. In the optimistic scenario, with all national plans implemented, the transition from traditional to commercial farms is on a steady rise. More wetland is converted into farmland.

Due to economic and population growth, energy demand may be 2-3 times higher by 2050. Hydropower will remain an important source, competing with irrigation demands. Peat will be a new and very important energy source, putting much pressure on wetlands and GHG emission reduction goals.  All households have electricity connection and a shift from cookstoves to biogas and LPG is in good progress. As a consequence, forest cover is increased by 30%, even though fuelwood demand is still double the supply.

As it can be seen, even in the optimistic scenario, with a good implementation of the existing national plans for development, several environmental problems persist or even get worse. Agricultural transformation should include measures like using manure as fertiliser and water saving provisions. It must be secured, that the negative effects of intensive farming on the environment, like eutrophication and over-use of nearby waters, are minimized. Here, direct (financial) investment in farmers and their equipment is necessary.

Rwanda's efforts on its way to middle-income country is commendable. However, more efforts is needed to bridge the gap regarding the sectors disconnect, especially in the implementation of policies and national plans. 

Please read more in the study reports:

Study report: Exploring the water-energy-food nexus in Rwanda’s Akagara Basin;

Policy brief: Policy coherence around energy transition and agricultural transformation in Rwanda

Policy brief: Managing natural resources in Rwanda’s districts under competing development pressures; Narratives: data and assumptions used to model development scenarios and climate sub-scenarios for Rwanda.