Land husbandry: Hillside terraced farms increase productivity in Rwanda

In the remote hilly regions of rural Rwanda, the development of terraced farms is providing employment opportunities for local communities whilst increasing the diversity of crop production.

Terraced farms are improving crop production for hundreds of thousands of rural smallholder farmers in Rwanda © Aimable Twahirwa

Sustainable land husbandry techniques on Rwanda’s hillsides are increasing crop productivity and incomes for smallholder farmers. As part of the government-funded Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation project, land management practices such as soil bunds, terraces, cut-off drains and reforestation have been implemented across more than 21,300 ha to enable farmers to diversify their crop production, and alleviate poverty in the country’s remote rural zones.

With funding of €118 million from the Rwandan Government and development partners, graduated terraced farms have been constructed in the fertile hills of 13 rural districts to help conserve soil, water and fertiliser. This practice has improved crop production for hundreds of thousands of poor rural farmers and the land husbandry works have provided more than 35,000 job opportunities. “I participated in the terracing works and the money I got helped to pay for health insurance for my family and my children’s school fees,” says farmer Joseph Bihoyiki.

Prior to the introduction of the new technologies, farmers endured chronic poverty due to rains washing away the precious topsoil. “Our land was unproductive and barren; we only survived on maize and wheat because that is where we managed to get yields,” says smallholder Olive Nyirahabimana. “But after using land husbandry technologies, we immediately cultivated Irish potatoes and the harvest was amazing.” Since the project’s implementation, in some places, potato and maize harvests have increased by up to 500% and 300% respectively.

Since practicing terraced farming, smallholder Odette Mukansanga has seen her maize harvest increase and has enhanced her income by RWF 60,000 (€56) a month. “Thanks to the initiative, my farm output and income have increased more than ever before,” she says.

Aimable Twahirwa

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.