Skip to main content

Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation Project (LWH)

$50 million to increase the productivity and commercialization of hillside agriculture in target areas.
Photo: A'Melody Lee


In Rwanda, the agriculture sector is steadily growing at 5.8% per year, accounting for about 33% of GDP, employing 80% of the population, and providing most of the country’s food needs. Rwanda is a hilly country, with steep terrains and the highest population density in sub-Saharan Africa, subjecting the land to severe soil erosion and low productivity. Arable land on hillsides makes up the vast majority of the total agricultural land in the country, but erosion costs the country 1.4 million tons of fertile soils per year. Given poor water management and high dependence on rain fed agriculture, irrigation is critical to reducing the sector’s vulnerability to climatic variation and to aligning the right incentives for intensification.


The objective of the Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting, and Hillside Irrigation (LWH) Project was to increase the productivity and
commercialization of hillside agriculture in target areas. GAFSP supported this project together with IDA, USAID, and Canada DTAFD. This two-phase flagship program in the Government of Rwanda’s overall poverty reduction and agricultural strategy was
designed to address key constraints to agricultural growth including the need for larger-scale watershed and community-based infrastructure approaches and the need for strong farmer mobilization. LWH built stronger farmer institutions as well as provided
extension education, rural finance, and marketing support alongside physical investments. It used a modified watershed approach to introduce sustainable land husbandry measures for hillside agriculture and to develop hillside irrigation on selected sites. 

Project Status






Focus area

  • Climate Change
  • Gender
  • Nutrition

Supervising entity

  • World Bank



At the end of the project, LWH was rated Satisfactory by the World Bank. Together with funds from other development partners such as IDA and bilateral aid from the United States and Canada, the GAFSP grant to the LWH project benefitted more than
280,000 farmers over five years. About one-half of the beneficiary farmers were women. The project successfully achieved its two main objectives of increasing both productivity and the commercialization rate. By mid-2016, productivity (as measured by dollar amount of farm products sold per hectare of farmland) rose from a baseline figure of US$492 in 2009 to US$2,575
on irrigated lands. The share of farm products commercialized (as opposed to consumed locally) more than doubled from 35 percent to 76 percent. To achieve this outcome, the project disseminated improved technologies to farmers that addressed
issues such as erosion control, productivity enhancement, and soil fertility. Before the project, less than 30 percent of farmers in the project area reported using these technologies. By mid-2016 almost all farmers were using some of these technologies. Approximately 1,356 hectares of land were irrigated about 88 percent of hilly land areas were protected against soil erosion. The volume of sediment yield or soil washed down from hilly slopes during heavy rain was reduced by 89 percent in project areas.
The project also Increased access to various formal financial products such as committed savings accounts. By mid-2016, about 80 percent of beneficiaries were using formal financial services, up from a baseline of about 20 percent. The project  strengthened farmers’ organizations to effectively support farmers in their transition to move to higher value chain activities. By mid-2016, 2,624 self-help groups comprised of 15 to 25 farmer members each were formed and strengthened. Finally, the project improved the composition of peoples’ diets to augment their nutrition status by carrying out nutrition awareness training and by constructing 47,611 kitchen garden. By mid-2016, approximately 83 percent of households were consuming an  acceptable diet including food from various food groups. 

Some lessons learned in the project include the following. First, flexibility in landscape approaches is important. The project proved that site-specific conditions were critical for determining what type of land husbandry package should be applied. The initial model of implementing all three components of L (land husbandry), W (water harvesting dams), and H (hillside irrigation) did not meet the needs of all sites. Flexibility had to be introduced to ensure cost effectiveness and technical soundness. Second, the involvement of local leaders such as village and Grievance Redress Committee leaders was key to the
resolution of conflicts over plots between neighbors, of conflicts between land owners and the owners of assets on that land, and of inter-family conflicts over ownership of assets or of social issues such as the proper management/use of compensation funds
received by some displaced people. 

Work with Us

The Global Agriculture & Food Security Program (GAFSP) is dedicated to fighting hunger, malnutrition, and poverty in low-income countries by supporting resilient and sustainable agricultural systems that benefit and empower poor and vulnerable smallholder farmers. Since its inception in 2010, GAFSP has received contributions totaling $1.7 billion from Australia, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with funds going to countries that have strategic, innovative, and credible plans already in place to improve agricultural productivity and food security.

Learn More