R wanda is a small land locked country in Central Africa located between 1°4′ and 2°51′ south latitude and 28°45′ and 31°15′ east longitude. The country has a total land area of 26,338 km2 and shares borders with Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west and northwest.
The country is divided into four main climatic regions: eastern plains, central plateau, highlands, and regions around Lake Kivu along the western border. Rwanda enjoys a tropical climate with hilly topography stretching from east to west. The Rwandan territory is covered with diverse ecosystems which includes mountain rainforests, gallery forests, savannah woodland, wetlands and aquatic forests and agroecosystems. Approximately 52% of the country’s total land area is arable and the total cultivated area equates to 66% of the national territory, with over 93,000 hectares of marshland under cultivation (Figure 1). With much small plot cultivation occurring on hills or mountain areas, increased runoff and landslides have been experienced, increasing the country’s vulnerability to climate change impacts.
Rwanda is a low-income country, but still ranks as one of the top 30 places in the world to do business (2019) and one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. Rwanda has a population of 12.9 million people (2020) with an annual population growth rate of 2.5%. Approximately 17.4% of the population currently live in urban areas and this is projected to increase to 20% and 29.6% of the population by 2030 and 2050, respectively. The country has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $10.4 billion in 2019 and $10.3 billion in 2020 and an annual growth rate of 9.5% in 2019 and −3.4% in 2020. Rwanda’s strong economic growth has been accompanied by substantial improvements in living standards (Table 1), with a 2/3 drop in child mortality and near-universal primary school enrollment. A strong focus on development-orientated policies and initiatives has contributed to significant improvement in access to services and human development indicators. Rwanda’s poverty rate dropped from 39.1% in 2014 to 38.1% in 2017 and Rwanda experienced robust economic growth and social performance following the implementation of two, five-year Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies—EDPRS (2008–12) and EDPRS-2 (2013–18).
Over the last decade, growth averaged 7.2 % and per capita GDP grew at 5% annually. Rwanda’s Vision 2050, a blueprint to transform Rwanda into an upper middle-income country by 2035 and a high-income country by 2050 requires an annual average GDP growth rate of at least 12% during 2018-2035 and 10% from 2035 to 2050. However, the lockdown and social distancing measures, which were critical to control the COVID-19 pandemic, sharply curtailed economic activities in 2020. The government expects GDP to drop by 0.2% in 2020, compared to a projected expansion of 8% before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Despite the country’s overall positive growth and development over the past 25 years, Rwanda is still highly vulnerable to impacts from climate change through its high dependence on rain-fed agriculture, as well as need to improve its road networks, health sector and water resource management.10 In Rwanda, the high levels of poverty and lowdegree of development limits capacity of poor households and communities to manage climate risk, increasing their vulnerability to climate-related shocks.
The ND-GAIN Index ranks 182 countries using a score which calculates a country’s vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges as well as their readiness to improve resilience. This Index aims to help businesses and the public sector better identify vulnerability and readiness in order to better prioritize investment for more efficient responses to global challenges. Due to a combination of political, geographic, and social factors, Rwanda is recognized as vulnerable to climate change impacts, ranked 124 out of 182 countries in the 2020 ND-GAIN Index.
The more vulnerable a country is the lower their score, while the more ready a country is to improve its resilience the higher it will be. Norway has the highest score and is ranked 1st. Figure 2 is a time-series plot of the ND-GAIN Index showing Rwanda’s progress.
Rwanda submitted its Updated Nationally-Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC in 2020, which outlines the country’s vision and its commitment to developing a climate-resilient, low carbon economy. Commitments are also guided by Rwanda’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy (2011) (GGCRS) and its National Strategy for Transformation (NST 1) (2017–2024). Rwanda is committed to ensuring its future stability and prosperity through mainstreaming climate change into all sectors of the economy and achieve climate resilience and lowcarbon development. Through its NDC, Rwanda’s adaptation efforts prioritize adaptation interventions, establish baselines, and develops sector-level performance indicators and targets. Priority adaptation interventions have been identified as the sustainable intensification of agriculture; agricultural diversity in local and export market; sustainable forestry, agroforestry and biomass energy; ecotourism conservation and payment of ecosystem services promotion in protected areas, integrated water resources management and planning; integrated approach to sustainable land use planning and management, disaster management; and climate data and projections. While climate change is being mainstreamed, adaptation efforts focus on the Water, Agriculture, Land and Forestry, Human Settlement,
Health, Transport, and Mining sectors. Rwanda’s NDC adaptation indicators will be embedded in its Environment and Natural Resources Management Results Based Monitoring and Evaluation framework (RBME) used to track and inform progress on NDC implementation towards the NST. This reporting framework is conducted biennially through Joint Sector Reviews. In addition, reporting on NDC adaptation indicators will be carried out in the context of a High-Level Policy Dialogue that tracks progress on the implementation of the GGCRS that circumscribes the broader context of NDC implementation.