Rwanda reviews impacts of fertilizer use on the Rweru-Mugesera lake-wetland complex

Rwanda, the country of a thousand hills, is a densely populated country whose economy and food security largely depend on agricultural production carried out on steep slopes. Partly as a result of the improper use of fertilizers and soil erosion from the slopes most rivers and streams that recharge Rwanda’s lakes and other water bodies have a high sediment and pollutant load impacting the country’s water quality. Rwanda’s Environment management Authority has commissioned a study on the ‘Impact of the Fertilizer Use’ with support from the UNDP-UN Environment Poverty Environment Initiative.

The study aimed at establishing the occurrence, pollution status and the impacts of agrochemicals in the Rweru-Mugesera lake-wetland complex. The study provided recommendations on the appropriate environmental impact assessment and monitoring approaches and tools for effective environmental planning and management across the country. Some of the study’s major recommendations include:

• Mineral fertilizers should only supplement organic fertilizers
• The Government should undertake comparative performance and economic evaluation of the different agricultural production practices including use of mineral fertilizers
• There is a need to provide hands-on training to farmers to enhance their technical skills in handling soil fertility challenges

The stakeholder dialogue during the presentation of the report revealed underlying misconceptions between REMA and the Agriculture sector with regard to the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits arising from fertilizer use in Rwanda. Consensus was reached that fertilizer use has an important role to play towards Rwanda’s food security and poverty reduction, and that any negative impacts on environmental sustainability need to be minimized and mitigated against.

To consolidate this consensus the Ministry of Agriculture has requested Poverty-Environment Initiative Rwanda to support it in strengthening its fertilizer policy with a supplementary study on the economic costs and benefits of fertilizer use and transition towards a “smart” agriculture system.

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