Around 36% of Rwanda’s wetlands have been lost between 1998 and 2016, and converted in favor of other land uses.

The main factors affecting land use changes in Rwanda include agricultural expansion, topography, high risk of soil erosion, and climate. Around 90% of Rwandan territory lies on slopes with the consequent risk of soil loss, erosion and decreasing fertility. 46% of the country’s areas are at risk of soil erosion [1].


Rwanda's high growth rate and increasing population density places major pressure on the country's natural resources, especially land. The main direct and indirect drivers contributing to land degradation in Rwanda are agriculture and forestry, mining and quarrying, infrastructure development and other physical human activities.

The land outside of protected areas is heavily populated (population density of approximately 485 people per km2 and a population growth rate of 2.35%), with the majority of Rwandans practicing subsistence agriculture and relying on woody biomass for fuel. Anthropogenic pressures on these landscapes over the past few decades has resulted in the degradation of land, resulting in high levels of habitat and biodiversity loss [2].


Key policies and governance approach

Progress in land management and administration has been marked by the establishment of a comprehensive legal framework for inclusive land registration and management, and the creation of a national database for land registers. The legal framework that provides favorable conditions to combat negative trends in soils and land is well enshrined in laws such as: the Environmental Law and the Law Governing Land in Rwanda.

The Land Husbandry, Water harvesting and Hillside irrigation Project (LWH), the largest project for soil protection, was initiated in 2009 by the Government of Rwanda through basket funding from various multi-donor organizations. The Project was implemented in 15 sites across 13 districts countrywide. The LWH project was a flagship initiative aligned with Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) and was integral to MINAGRI’s strategy under PSTA-III and PSTA-IV and the goal of transforming the rural economy [3]. During implementation, the 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 selected sites, as well as develop water retention dams for hillside irrigation.

At the end of the project, LWH benefitted more than 280,000 farmers, about one-half women. The project successfully achieved its two main objectives of increasing both productivity and the commercialization rate. The project irrigated 1,356 hectares of land, protected about 88% of hilly land areas against soil erosion, and reduced the volume of sediment yield or soil washed down from hilly slopes during heavy rain in project areas by 89% [3].


Successes and Remaining Challenges

Rwanda has made great strides in developing national land use and development master plans (e.g., the National Land-Use and Development Master Plan 2020-2050) that have spurred restoration efforts and shaped Rwandan landscapes. However, the coordination and implementation of land policies and plans are sometimes not fully realized [4]. Land and forest restoration is taking place across the country and through the combined efforts of various stakeholders; an appropriate monitoring capacity must be developed to better monitor the progress of the restoration [4].

In addition, rapid economic growth negatively affects land use decisions and places pressure on natural resources in Rwanda. While the Rwandan government has sought to promote sustainable economic growth, many investment decisions imply choosing among trade-offs between different land use outcomes that impact ecosystems [5]. For example, Rwanda’s policy goal of becoming a middle-income economy is heavily dependent upon a significant structural transformation away from subsistence agriculture towards more commodity focused production [5]. At current levels of food production per unit area and an expanding population, Rwanda needs land that is four times the country size to meet its food demands by 2050 [4].


Initiatives and Development Plans

Rwanda has several projects for integrated sustainable land practices, including soil erosion control through the establishment of progressive and bench terraces, establishment of new and monitoring of the existing soil erosion infrastructures and implementation on large hillside irrigation schemes [6]. National development plans include the Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation Project (LWH) and Sebeya Landscape Restoration Pilot Program (SLRPP).

In addition, to establish new green and public space in Rwanda’s cities as per recent land-use masterplans, Nyandungu Wetland in the City of Kigali has been developed into an eco-tourism recreational facility [7]. The Park will provide social and economic benefits to communities and also support innovative approaches to restore and conserve wetland ecosystems on 130 Ha, promoting the sustainable management of natural resources and supporting livelihood diversification to enhance incomes for local communities [8]

Rwanda also has a number of related forest landscape restoration initiatives contributing to land degradation neutrality. Through the “Greening Africa”, the EU is supporting Rwanda, as part of its multi-country project. The project aims to extend evergreen agriculture to 500,000 households agriculture in Rwanda and other countries, namely Mali, Niger and Senegal, over an area of ​​more than one million hectares. The initiative will help restore degraded lands and critical ecosystem functions in Rwanda [9].


Goals and Ambitions

The government of Rwanda has set ambitious voluntary Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets nationwide with the aim of achieving LDN for the entire country to align to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development considering all LDN indicators [10].

  • Sustainable and productive land management in Rwanda can be achieved through improved agroforestry practices, soil conservation measures and land use planning.
  • Rwanda should ensure compliance with national land use master plans, in particular the new National Land Use and Development Master Plan 2020-2050 (NLUDMP) which has been specifically designed to meet Vision 2050.
  • Promote sustainable agriculture, consolidation of cultivated land and smart farming practices to minimize pressure on already scarce land, especially in rural areas of Rwanda.
  • Document the risks of erosion and soil degradation at the national level.

[1] MoE, "Erosion Control Mapping Report," Ministry of Environment (MoE), Rwanda, Kigali, 2020.


[3] [Online]. Available:

[4] GoR, "National Land Use and Development Master Plan (NLUDMP) 2020-2050," 2021.

[5] Rwanda BIOFIN, "Biodiversity Finance Policy and Institutional Review," Rwanda BIOFIN, 2017.

[6] RAB, "Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB)," 2021. [Online]. Available:

[7] [Online]. Available:

[8] [Online]. Available:

[9] Rwanda, 2021. [Online]. Available:

[10] [Online]. Available: