Rwanda is a mountainous country, south-western part of the Nile Basin and contributing flow to Lake Victoria. It lies on the divide between the Congo and Nile Basins, with about 80 percent of the land area in the Nile Basin region. It has a total population of 8,440,820 million people and a total area of 26,338 sq km.

The water resources of Rwanda face growing challenges arising from pressures of rapidly changing demographic patterns, the demands of intensified socio-economic development, degradation resulting from unsustainable and inappropriate land use practices; and the uncertainties created by climate change, among others. At the same time, the water resources are relied upon to meet many conflicting demands including facilitating the achievement of the country’s 2020 development vision.

Rwanda principally has only two hydrographic basins. The Nile basin covers 67% of the territory. It drains 90% of the waters of Rwanda through the Akagera River into Lake Victoria. The Congo Basin covers 33% of Rwanda’s territory and drains 10% of its waters into Lake Kivu on the western part (Rwanda National Policy 2004).

The rainfall regime strongly influences the hydrological regime. There are floods during the rainy season, which ordinarily is from March to May The dry season between June and September. In recent years, Rwanda has increasingly been experiencing long periods of drought which tend to be cyclical and persistent interspersed with periods of heavy flooding.

The Government has embarked on an ambitious crop intensification program with the aim of ensuring food security and to improving the socio-economic livelihoods of the Rwandan population, as reflected in the EDPRS plan period (2008-2012). While the process will be driven by sustainability principles, it is unavoidable that it will intensify demand on water resources to support agriculture production whereby irrigation is to be intensified to adapt to the current weather trends. The quality of water is also likely to be affected by the predicted increase in use of inorganic fertilizers.

Surface water bodies in Rwanda occupy a total of 135,000 Ha or 8% of the country’s surface area (RADA, 2005). These include 101 lakes totaling 1,495 km2, 861 rivers totaling 6,462 Km (REMA, 2010) and a network of disconnected wetlands. The in-land lakes are sustained by inflows from the dense network of rivers, streams and wetlands.


Rwanda hosts the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program Coordination Unit (NELSAP-CU) based in Kigali plus a number of Project Management Units for the NELSAP investment projects. These include the Kagera River Basin Management Project, Bugesera Trans-boundary Water Management Project, Regional Transmission Interconnection Project, and the Regional Rusumo Hydro-power and Multi-purpose Project’

The Ministry of Natural Resources is NBI’s focal point ministry and its Minister is a member of the Nile-COM.  Two senior officials – the Coordinator of Trans-boundary Sector and a Water Resources Engineer, represent the country on the Nile Technical Advisory Committee (Nile-TAC).

To facilitate in-country coordination of NBI’s activities, Rwanda established a focal point institution within the National NBI Office whose specific roles include: to provide a forum for in-country coordination of NBI’s projects and activities; to assist with promoting coordination and integration with other relevant national activities and initiatives as well as logistical arrangements for incoming NBI missions.

The country contributes US$ 50,000 annually towards NBI’s operational costs. This is in addition to providing counterpart funds for all investment projects, as well as hosting and meeting all local costs for Projects Management Units based in Rwanda.  Also worth noting is the in-kind contribution to NBI in terms of supervision and technical guidance by Nile-TAC members, staff time by national staff attending specialized meetings on NBI issues organized at national level, hosting incoming NBI missions and offering office space for Project Management Units based in the country.

Furthermore, staff time through either secondment or direct hire of coordinators based on relevant sector institutions is increasingly being devoted to NBI’s different programs and projects.  Steady progress has been made in mainstreaming/integrating NBI activities in the national planning and budgeting processes.


Rwanda is implementing NBI’s basin-wide capacity building projects and sub-regional investment projects. The projects are identified and prepared through a participatory process.


Rwanda successfully participated in the implementation of the largely completed basin-wide capacity building projects.  The on-going Water Resources Planning and Management (WRPM) project is developing the necessary basin-wide management tools and building capacity for best practices. The Regional Power Trade (RPT) project is building capacity for power trade and development through preparation of the Comprehensive Basin Wide assessment of power options in the Nile Basin.


These projects fall under the Water Resources Development function of NBI. The portfolio of investment projects is categorized into three sectors: Power, Agriculture, and River Basin Management. This represents the priority needs of member countries – for increased access to reliable and cheap electricity, for increased food security and productivity and for increased protection and management of the environment as a basis for livelihoods of the basin populations. Projects active in Rwanda are spearheaded, prepared and coordinated by NBI’s Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP) Coordination Unit based in Kigali, Rwanda. Project implementation is undertaken at national level.



Regional Transmission Interconnection Project

Over 769 km of 220 kV and 110 kV transmission lines and associated sub-stations to be constructed, to interconnect electric grids. This will improve access to electricity through increased cross-border sharing of energy and power. The National Project Implementation Unit is located at NELSAP-CU offices.

Overall, the project consists of three Components as follows:

i.) 220 KV Uganda (Bujagali) – Kenya (Lessos) interconnection (256 km);

ii.) 220 KV Uganda (Mbarara) – Rwanda (Kigali) interconnection (172 km);

iii.) Rwanda - Burundi - DRC (Eastern part) (R-B-C) Interconnections:

     a) Ruzizi – Bujumbura (112 km) to Kiliba (19 km)

     b) Ruzizi – Goma (150 km)

     c) Kibuye-Gisenyi-Goma-Kigali about 200 km d) 110 KV Rwanda (Kigoma) – Burundi (Rwegura) about 120km.

Regional Rusumo Hydropower and Multipurpose Project

The project will generate an estimated 90 MW to be shared with Rwanda and Tanzania. The power generation infrastructure will be located at Rusumo Falls on the border between Tanzania and Rwanda. The transmission lines will extend from the power generation plant to Gitega in Burundi,Kigali in Rwanda, and Nyakanazi in Tanzania. The project will benefit communities in three provinces of Gitega, Karuzi, Muyinga and Kirundo.


Regional Agricultural Trade and Productivity Project

This project will carry out studies that will highlight potential agriculture and agricultural trade opportunities in the Nile basin countries and beyond. It will also increase knowledge of basin agriculture in NBI institutions as well as promote more efficient and sustainable use of water resources and economically viable investment in agriculture.

River Basin Management

Kagera River Basin Management Project

The project will establish a sustainable framework for the joint management of the water resources of the Kagera basin, in order to prepare for sustainable development oriented investments to improve the living conditions of the people and to protect the environment. The project is operational in 25 districts of Rwamagana, Kayonza, Ngoma, Kirehe, Gatsibo, Nyagatare, Bugesera, Muhanga, Kamonyi, Ruhango, Nyanza, Huye, Gisagara, Nyamagabe,Nyaruguru, Gicumbi, Rulindo, Musanze, Gakenke,Burera, Karongi, Ngororero, Kicukiro, Gasabo and Nyarugenge Districts.

Bugesera Trans-boundary water Management Project

This project will help to increase people’s income and improve food security through sustainable trans-boundary water management and development of the Lakes Rweru, Chohoha and Akanyaru marshland. The project covers four districts of Bugesera, Gisagara , Ngoma and Huye.


Through its three core functions of: Building cooperation, Water Resource Managementand Water Resource Development, NBI provides Rwanda with:

Building Cooperation

• A platform upon which the Nile Council of Ministers can dialogue on management and development of the shared water resources of the Nile

• A forum for technical exchange of ideas and experiences within water resources, natural resource management, power generation and trade

• Capacity building activities aimed at strengthening the ability of both people and institutions in different water related areas

Water Resource Management

• A mechanism for basin wide exchange of information and prior notification for water resources development

• State-of-the-art technical tools for organizing, storing, analysis and disseminating data and information collected by NBI programs and projects, including computer based databases with information such as discharge data for sub-basins and watershed, GIS information, biodiversity inventories, stakeholder inventories. The Nile Decision Support System (DSS) tool to facilitate strategic based wide planning and knowledge based policy and decision making. Also interactive CDs and web-based inventories such as the Nile-Information System (Nile-IS).

• Technical support in strengthening national water policy frameworks with a key focus on strengthening the consideration of the trans-boundary dimension.

• Knowledge on the basin’s water resources and monitoring of the basin’s health

• Analysis and scenarios development for sustainable resource management and for planning to maximize development opportunities at basin, sub basin and national levels

• Analytic tools and a shared information system that will enable monitoring and the sustainable management of the basin

• Better understanding and cooperative management of risk for a changing and uncertain climate

Water Resource Development

• Identification of development opportunities focused on power trade and generation, agriculture and river basin management

• Preparation of investment projects which contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction

• Assessing costs and benefits of participation in proposed projects and facilitate agreements on how to share costs and benefits with other beneficiary country.

• Projects implementation support including resource mobilization and preparation of multi-country agreements

• Technical assistance, know-how and expertise in project supervision


Early benefits

• Ability to share and exchange water resource data with the rest of the NBI member countries, following the adoption by the Nile-COM in July 2009, of the formal protocol developed under NBI.

• Use of the Decision Support System (DSS), a Basin-wide planning tool which enables decision makers to select the optimum investment planning options and best water resources management practices at national and regional levels.

• Increased the capacity of 30 Rwandese, including Post Graduate training in Integrated Water Resource Management

• Trans-boundary policy frameworks, policies, guidelines, data and information base for water resources management.

• Communities have benefited from various small scale projects, such as the 15 rain water harvesting tanks for 15 schools in Nyagatare District.

• Agro forestry projects established in Kirehe, Nyamagabe and Gicumbi districts.

Future Benefits

• Knowledge of the characteristics of the trans-boundary water resources of Rweru and Cyohoha Lakes and Akanyaru marshlands leading to better development actions with Burundi

• Increased and stable power supply through the Regional Transmission Interconnection Project and the Regional Rusumo Hydropower and Multipurpose project, leading to economic growth and better quality of life.

•  Increased food security and productivity

Indirect benefits

• Ability to overcome associated impacts of climate change that are mostly manifesting through the hydrological cycle. These include floods and droughts that lead to serious water scarcity and food shortage.

• Enhanced Regional cooperation, peace, security and political stability, markets, trade, hence economic growth.

• The annual Nile Basin Football Tournament.


Read more