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SEI brief

Managing natural resources in Rwanda’s districts under competing development pressures

Rwanda has committed itself to becoming a middle-income country by 2020. The country’s Vision 2020 and Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies both set out goals to intensify agriculture, increase national energy output and improve access to modern energy services.

However, these development goals – in tandem with increasing population growth and urbanization – place increasing pres-sure on limited water and biomass resources, and the major challenge of how to translate national priorities and strategies into local action remains.


Oliver Johnson, Mbeo Ogeya, Cassilde Muhoza, Tom Ogol and Louise Karlberg. (2018) Managing natural resources in Rwanda’s districts under competing development pressures. SEI Policy Brief.

soil erosion terrace crops Rwanda

Erosion caused by deforestation is a major problem in Rwanda. Photo credit: Rwanda Green Fund via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

This policy brief contributes to the current revision of Rwanda’s District Development Plans by exploring development challenges and opportunities in three districts in Rwanda – Rutsiro, Bugesera and Kirehe – each with differing landscapes. It draws on an integrated landscape monitoring survey carried out in each district from February to April 2016, and perspectives and opinions of key stakeholders and community representatives.

The study shows that similar problems are faced across different landscapes. However, in some cases the drivers of those problems differed slightly, leading to different visions and specific needs in each district. What is common to all three is resource scarcity, especially related to unsustainable use of woody biomass for charcoal production that results in severe problems with defor-estation and soil degradation. Water is also scarce in the three districts, and across the country.

As District Development Plans are revised, the authors recommend that districts consider ways to better manage natural resources as a means to achieve the objectives of transforming agriculture, increasing energy access and improving cooking fuel sustainability. They further recommend that the national government considers how it can provide policy, financial and technical support to different districts, to help build capacity and improve local landscapes in light of growing competition over increasingly scarce water and woody biomass resources.

SEI authors

Mbeo Ogeya
Mbeo Ogeya

Research Fellow

SEI Africa

Cassilde Muhoza

Research Fellow

SEI Africa

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