Resilience and Innovation: Rwanda’s Young Farmers Lead the Charge in Climate Change Adaptation

Rwanda: In the wake of devastating floods and landslides that struck Northern, Western, and Southern provinces on May 2 and 3, 2023, Rwanda’s agricultural sector is witnessing a transformation. This transformation, essential for expanding food production amidst increasing climate-related natural disasters, is being led by innovative young farmer entrepreneurs.

The recent disaster resulted in tragic losses: over 130 lives, the destruction of over 3,000 hectares of arable land, displacement of more than 18,000 people, and extensive damage to infrastructure, including a hospital. The recovery efforts are estimated to cost Rwf130 billion.

In the face of these challenges, young agricultural entrepreneurs are at the forefront of a transformative movement in Rwandan agriculture. These individuals are pioneering climate-resilient agricultural practices, crucial for the country’s sustainable food production.

One such entrepreneur is Rurangwa Sam, who, with a small loan, started a passion fruit farm in Kayonza district in 2018. Facing the challenges of failing rains, Rurangwa was supported by a UNDP and MINAGRI partnership, receiving a $7,000 grant. This grant enabled him to diversify his farm, invest in irrigation, and significantly increase his income and farm yields, benefiting his community and providing jobs, especially for women.

Bankunde Charlotte from Bugesera District is another inspiring figure. She runs a green bean farm and, with support from the same partnership, managed to implement irrigation solutions, enhancing productivity and creating employment for over 500 individuals each season.

Bernardin Uzayisaba, Head of the Sustainable Growth Unit at UNDP Rwanda, emphasizes the organization’s commitment to supporting young entrepreneurs, particularly in agriculture. He highlights their role in transforming the sector and ensuring food security. To date, UNDP Rwanda has supported 108 youth-led climate-resilient agriculture projects, advancing gender equality and fostering sustainable solutions to climate challenges.

The Uruhimbi Cooperative in Gicumbi district exemplifies innovative adaptation strategies. They have adopted hydroponics, overcoming water scarcity, soil degradation, and extreme weather. This soil-less cultivation method conserves water and land, enhancing food security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As the climate crisis intensifies, with Africa experiencing rising temperatures at twice the global average, the innovations of these young farmers become increasingly vital. They are pioneering solutions like irrigation systems for drought, water management for heavy rains, reforestation to prevent landslides and soil erosion, and access to climate-resilient crops and alternative energy sources.

The efforts of Rwanda’s young farmers, supported by strategic partnerships and grants, highlight the urgent need for climate change adaptation. Their initiatives are not only transforming agriculture but also contributing to sustainable development and resilience in the face of escalating climate threats.