Rwanda: River Nyabarongo Multipurpose Dam to Irrigate Over 20,000 Hectares of Crops

The anticipated multipurpose dam along River Nyabarongo will irrigate over 20,000 hectares of crops, The New Times has learnt.

The irrigation is part of a project expected to cater for water supply, irrigation as well as electrical power generation. The project will also mitigate the perpetual flooding downstream of the Nyabarongo River that has proved to be hazardous in recent years.

In February 2020, the Government of Rwanda and the People’s Republic of China signed a framework agreement that will allow China, through China Exim Bank, to extend a concessional loan worth $214 million that will facilitate the construction of the Nyabarongo II Hydropower Plant.

The project will build a 43.5 MW hydropower plant and irrigate 20,000 hectares of land, increasing fishing and tourism activities.

Nyabarongo II Multipurpose Dam under construction is located between the Northern and Southern provinces, specifically between Kamonyi, Gakenke and Rulindo districts.

The dam will measure 59 metres high and 363 metres long, creating a reservoir with a storage capacity of 803,000,000 cubic metres.

Jerome Hitayezu, the Head of the Irrigation Programme at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), said the dam will irrigate the land in the valley of Nyabarongo, Akagera, and Akanyaru rivers as well as upstream of lakes Cyohoha and Rweru in Bugesera District.

“There will be a long canal of water from the dam in Shyorongi to Bugesera District. Although the dam is being constructed in Shyorongi of Northern Province, a big part to be irrigated is located in Bugesera,” he said.

China’s Sinohydro was awarded the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for the project. The company is also responsible for the installation of the 110kV transmission line.

“We are waiting for the detailed design. Both rice and sugar cane crops are proposed in the project but it has not yet been confirmed which one will be prioritised. If rice is chosen, there will be redistribution so that farmers are given the land to till,” he said.

The Nyabarongo multipurpose dam is a boost as Rwanda targets to irrigate 102,284 ha by 2024. The government, at the end of October this year, also launched the construction of the Muvumba multi-purpose dam, which will cost €121.5 million (approx. Rwf122b).

Initially, the Muvumba dam was supposed to be 30.5 metres high and provide 35 million cubic metres of water for irrigation on 7,380 ha and 16 reservoirs for livestock in Nyagatare District, as well as generate electricity.

However, after reviewing the designs, the capacity of the dam was increased. The hydropower station is expected to generate 6.94 GWh annually, an increase from 5 GW.

The dam was envisaged to supply about 24,000 cubic metres per day of water but after design upgrading, this has increased to 50,000 cubic metres per day to 300,000 people in the areas of Karangazi, Rwimiyaga and Nyagatare, in addition to livestock use.

The command area of the irrigation scheme is estimated to increase from 7,380 hectares to 8,800 hectares covering Tabagwe, Gatunda, Karama, Rukomo, Nyagatare, Rwempasha, Musheri and Rwimiyaga sectors. The project will be complete by 2027 if all goes well.

The mayor of Nyagatare District, Stephen Gasana, said they anticipate a boost in agricultural productivity thanks to the irrigation scheme facilitated by the Muvumba multipurpose dam.

“Currently, we cultivate on 40,000 hectares per season. Our productivity was unpredictable due to insufficient water, but this infrastructure gives us assurance that things are about to change,” he mentioned. The dam will have a height of 39 metres and a storage capacity of 55 million cubic metres.

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