Project site description

Location: Nyamagabe district It is located in the southern province of Rwanda. It is a new district which resulted from the merging of the former districts of Nyamagabe, Kinyamakara and Karaba in 2006. It lies between 29o56’ east and 24o47’ south. The total area of the district is 1,091 km2 and the population in 2007 was approximately 333,587.

Soil: Nyamagabe is a highland area with very steep slopes. Its altitude ranges from 1,500–2,500 m a.s.l with an average of 1,800 m a.s.l. The altitudes increase from east to west and half of the area has a slope ranging between 40-50%. The steep slopes and the demographic pressure on this uneven land of Nyamagabe, has led to severe erosion in the area. The soil of Nyamagabe is classified as hygro kaolisols humiferes (humic ferrasols; Figure 3). It is in the ruzian system constituted by the complex rocks (Nyamagabe morphic) of the precambrian age: with diverse schist, granite, gneiss, quartzite and basic rocks (amphibolites and pyroxemites).

Different areas of the Nyamagabe district are characterized by severe soil acidity and aluminium toxicity. In the high altitude areas (more than 2,000 m) of the district, peat predominates over mineral soils. The soils in swamps are clay and kaolin with high soluble alumina and pH ranging between 4.3 and 4.9. The low pH combines with high levels of aluminium obstructing biological activities.

Farming: The agricultural potential is low to average and the altitude limits the variety of crops. Physical properties are good and the risk of acute dryness is limited by the climate. In the Nyamagabe district, some components of the ecosystem especially the vegetation is under stress because of the acidic soil, which leads to low food production.

The Nyamagabe district is part of the highlands in the country and has a diverse farming system that follows the altitude. The farming system depends on the climate and the topography. Increased population pressure has resulted in continuous cultivation on the same plots. This has led to low soil fertility particularly on steeper slopes resulting in decreased agricultural production. The latter author reported that the average farm size in Nyamagabe has declined dramatically in the last three decades (11% increases in households with less than one-hectare land).

The traditional farming system in Nyamagabe is related to land tenure where land is either inherited (land given/left to children by parents) or purchased (getting land from someone by giving money or other worthy things). Farming is based on traditional tools (e.g. hoes) used in land cultivation. Farmers use ordinary seeds bought from local market or from neighbours and crops are mixed in the small plot with no fertilizer application. This traditional farming system has led to low crop production and soil depletion. However, near the homestead, the soil is fertile due to organic manure from stalled animals which is spread on the nearest crops and/or planted pastures.

Livestock & vegetation: In the Nyamagabe district, vegetation was composed by grassland, which was created by pastoralists and managed through burning, ensuring younger grass for their grazing animals. Due to high population and problem of erosion, grasslands have disappeared. However, some grasses are found under planted trees for erosion control. These are dominated by Brachiaria spp. and other species grown in the acidic soils like Eragrostis spp., Hyparrhenia spp., and Digitaria spp. The remaining natural vegetation in the Nyamagabe district is the Nyungwe forest, which is mountain forest. As grasslands have disappeared and that there is severe soil depletion, keeping animals in a shed has become an important activity to provide milk for home consumption, cash and manure for crop fertilisation. For this reason, growing grasses and tree legumes is a part of the crop-livestock production system in the Nyamagabe district.

Infrastructure: The majority of the population is limited to traditional farming system without any mechanization. They use for instance hoes soil tillage. Crops are rainfed only. The farmers distribute their crops and other items to the nearby located markets. Most of them use public transport to approach the markets and other destinations. Almost all farmers have mobile phones, some few of them even smart phones.

Figure 1: Soil map of Nyamagabe district
Figure 2: Cyanika sector of Nyamagabe district, southern province (29.61126 E and 2.43505 S, and at an altitude of 1,846 m about sea level)