Rwanda's first natural capital accounts focus on land and water resources. (Photo:

Rwanda presented the first results of its Natural Capital Accounting process on February 16th during a national workshop in Kigali. The results from the first accounts – on the topics of land and water - come after about 18 months of work, as Rwanda is bracing to begin planning for its third Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, a process that will start in May 2017. The results from the two accounts are expected to inform the national planning process, especially when it comes to including natural resources in economic development and poverty reduction.

"For Rwanda to progress, grow, and manage our economy wisely, we need good measures to evaluate our economic status and performance,” said Dr. Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s Minister of Natural Resources (pictured at left). “Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a standard or traditional measure of economic performance, focused on income, the value of goods and services. But it does not give us insight about the underlying wealth and the assets that sustain our income, or the trends in their use or performance.”

He added, "For some time now, we have been keen to evaluate and measure natural assets’ contribution to ensure sustainability. The just-ended National Workshop on Natural Capital Accounting in Rwanda will help us address this challenge. Natural capital accounting gives us an approach and tools that will help us analyze the trends in our underlying natural assets. This tool can inform our efforts to sustain performance through sound management of natural assets."

The Minister also noted that Rwanda’s priority accounts (land, water and minerals) were not only cross cutting, but also critical for national development. For instance, land is a crucial sector in Rwanda as agriculture accounts for over 50 percent of total direct employment and 31 percent of GDP, and yet land availability is already proving to be a constraint for agricultural growth.  

The land accounts provide information about land use change, land availability and productivity, as well as potential constraints to agricultural growth - a key pillar of Rwanda’s development agenda. Among the major findings from the land accounts, it was found that, in 2014 and 2015, agriculture dominated land uses across all of Rwanda’s provinces. About 70 per cent of all land used falls under the agriculture and forestry sector.

In addition, land cover map results revealed that between 1990 and 2010, there has been a decline of woodland and an increase in cropland, while the area of dense forest declined by half during this 20-year period. The results also revealed that sparse forest cover decreased while the area of settlements had doubled.

In terms of water, Rwanda’s resources are currently under pressure from population growth and rapid economic development, including the intensification of agriculture, and increasing urbanization and industrialization. Preliminary results from the accounts revealed that, between 2012 and 2015, agriculture was the highest consumer of water, followed by educational institutions and households. Another finding was that agricultural water was the largest contributor to both GDP and employment.

While Rwanda had previously collected data on water, these statistics were not detailed enough to capture information on water allocation, productivity, resource use, and contribution to GDP and jobs.

Going forward, Rwanda’s Natural Capital Accounting team will continue refining the water accounts, working on mineral accounts, and will present a strategic policy paper to inform the development of the third economic development and poverty reduction strategy.