Kigali, Rwanda: Urban Agriculture for Food Security?

Abstract

This case evaluates the premade decision of the Kigali City Council (KCC) to incorporate urban agriculture into the city’s long-term development agenda, as the key tool to address the problem of food security. A land-scarce country characterized by a predominantly rural population, Rwanda has a history of unsustainable approaches to food security, exacerbated by the collapse of the coffee industry in the 1980s and the genocide in the 1990s. After the genocide, international donors swept in to rebuild the war-torn country, which included projects designed to combat food insecurity. Urbanization rates skyrocketed post-genocide as Rwandans resettled in urban settings, bringing with them problems faced in rural areas. As Rwanda urbanizes, there is a growing demand for food in cities such as Kigali. Close to 90 percent of Rwanda’s labor force is engaged in agriculture, and so for those flocking to cities, it was natural to apply existing skills and expertise to urban agriculture upon arrival in Kigali. An informal institution before being formalized through city’s Master Plan, Kigali’s emphasis on urban agriculture (UA) is to increase food security within the city, and serve as a means for subsistence and livelihood.

After seeking out the guidance of the FAO in designing a plan to increase agricultural productivity in Kigali, urban agriculture was officially incorporated into the Kigali Conceptual Master Plan (KCMP) in 2009. The Kigali City government accepted the recommendation of the FAO to focus on urban agriculture, which it deemed to have the potential to aid in the city’s transformation to commercial export of food, generate income, and bolster the urban food supply. Kigali has taken measures to ensure that urban agriculture becomes a sustainable solution to food security for the city.

There are challenges to the sustainability of urban agriculture as a solution to food security in Kigali. High population density and growing urban development have created competing interests for land and water, thereby constraining the productivity and effectiveness of UA in achieving food security goals. Additionally, dependence on the international community for a consistent stream of funding is unsustainable.

This case study is part of a series of cases designed for the course "Case Studies in Sustainable Development" at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

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