Participatory Integrated Watershed Management in the north-western highlands of Rwanda

This thesis explores whether integrated watershed management is a viable approach to promote best soil and water conservation (SWC) measures towards more sustainable land use. The study was conducted in two contrasting agro-ecological zones of the north-western highlands of Rwanda, namely; Gataraga and Rwerere. Both Rwerere and Gataraga have a bimodal distribution of rainfall which allows crop cultivation during two subsequent cropping seasons.

The research started with an assessment of the ecological and economic sustainability of smallholder farms in the two study areas. The level of nitrogen recycling between farm activities and the farm income were used as indicators. Challenges and opportunities within the current farming systems were revealed for policy makers and other agriculture agencies. Soil fertility management components, including farm inputs and improved farming systems were evaluated. This was done in combination with knowledge on how to adapt these practices to local conditions at field, farm and watershed level.

Following a proper participatory assessment of soil and water conservation practices, a field experiment was conducted to explore the efficiency of 20+ year old progressive (slow) forming terraces. This was done in farmer’s fields. Finally, the impact was assessed of participatory integrated watershed management (PIWM) activities on natural resource management (NRM), on the productivity of crops and livestock and on farmers’ livelihood. Furthermore, the integration of several policies that are operating simultaneously in the watershed was evaluated.


The overall conlcusion is that integrated watershed management,
provided it is executed with ‘true’ participation of all stakeholders, is a viable approach towards more sustainable land use.