With a population of over 12.6 million people spread over 26,338 km2, Rwanda is Africa’s most densely populated country. Rain-fed agriculture is the mainstay of the Rwandan economy, representing 34% of Rwanda’s GDP (2014) and employing 90% of its inhabitants (both directly and indirectly).
With its relatively high average rainfall, Rwanda is often perceived as a water-rich country, but precipitation is not evenly distributed over the country and trends show increasingly short and more intense rainy seasons, bringing with them increased erosion, flooding and drought.
As a result, water availability per capita (500-600cm/pa) remains low and Rwanda ranks amongst the world’s water-scarce countries. Meanwhile, population growth and increasing urbanisation are expected to push demand to over 50% of natural resources by 2040, and over 80% in specific catchments, putting the country at risk of severe water stress and decreased water quality due to increasing pollution.
The combined stresses of sustained economic development, population growth, urbanisation and climate change all mean an improved, integrated approach to water management is needed to ensure Rwanda’s water resources are equitably, efficiently and sustainably used.