Overall Conclusion

The Nile Basin Initiative, established in 1999, has initiated the preparation of the Nile Basin Water Resources Atlas as part of their quest for basin-wide cooperation, enabling water resource management and water resource development. The primary objective of the Atlas is to support collaborative monitoring the water and related resources of the Nile Basin by Riparian States and thereby contribute towards achieving their shared vision objective “to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources”.

The Atlas provides a snap-shot of the present water resources situation and aims to give overviews of the conditions and the huge variations in water resources parameters in the Nile Basin that is roughly 10% of the African continent and comprises eleven countries. In such a huge area with large variations the Atlas will give aggregated information. The Nile flows from its spring in the highlands southwest of Lake Victoria and join the Kagera River, which empties into Lake Victoria. Totally the Nile flows roughly 6700 km to the north before reaching the delta and eventually the Mediterranean Sea. The physiography of the basin represents the result of the processes, which have formed the landscape over millions of years. In historical time, humans have started influencing erosion and sedimentation, land cover, soils and the wetlands. The physiography divides the Nile Basin into two broad sub-systems. The Equatorial Nile sub-system comprises the sub-basins of Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, Victoria Nile, Bahr el Jebel, White Nile and Bahr el Ghazal. The Eastern Nile sub-system comprising the Main Nile sub-basin and the sub-basins of Tekeze-Atbara, Blue Nile and Baro-Akobo-Sobat. Totally, there are ten sub-basins with large variations in characteristics. The Nile and its tributaries is the lifeline for a population of 257 million or more than 10% of the population of the African continent. The Nile and the socio-economy of the 11 riparian countries are intimately connected. Agriculture, hydropower production, wetlands, water supply, navigation, fisheries and tourism are among the many sectors depending on water resources and providing livelihoods for the riparian population.

The settlement patterns also reflect the availability of water, which seems to overshadow other factors such as social and economic infrastructure. In the downstream countries, population is concentrated along the course of the Nile and in the Nile Delta. Upstream population densities are highest in the Equatorial Lakes region and in the Ethiopian Highlands, both being regions of high rainfall and abundant water resources. The trend in migration is from rural areas to urban areas. For the Nile Basin as a whole, the rural population is larger than the urban population. Projections for 2050 shows that the urban population will reach above 60% of the total population in 4 of the 11 Nile Basin riparian nations. In the remaining seven nations the urban population will increase but stay well below 40%. Urbanization will increase the pressure on urban services and facilities as well as on the natural resources and the environment. Water pollution will be one of the serious challenges for the water resources management.

The Human development index (HDI) is an aggregation of the average achievement in the key dimensions, a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent standard of living. All Nile Basin countries fall into the Low Human Development category with the exception of Egypt, which is in the middle category. However, all basin countries show improvements compared to year 2000. The higher the HDI, the higher the potential for involvement of the broad population in the stewardship of the environment, the water resources and the battle against water pollution. Poverty is widespread and by income, around 40% of the population of the basin countries live below a poverty line of USD 1.25 per day.

The full dependence of the socio- economy on shared basin water resources makes a fact based management and development essential. Monitoring of water resources is therefore done by all countries and close to 1,000 meteorological stations for rainfall and temperature recording exists. Almost 450 hydrometric stations for gauging of streamflow were registered. Technical and financial resources to operate the networks of stations have been dwindling in most countries and station densities can become inadequate. The need for improvements have been realized by the Nile Basin Initiative, which has completed a design of a Nile Basin Regional Hydromet System based primarily on upgrading of existing stations adding water quality monitoring and laboratory strengthening. Groundwater monitoring is generally very sparse. Automated water level registrations and telemetric transfer of data are still underused. Calibration of hydrometric stations is often not adequate and data reliability suffers.

Climatically, the Nile Basin has large variations ranging from the tropical climate in the Equatorial Lake region to the Mediterranean climate of the Nile Delta. This is brought about by the latitude range (4o S to 32o N) and the variation from sea level to an altitude of around 3,000 m. Regarding rainfall, the Equatorial Lakes region and the Ethiopian Highlands receive an average annual rainfall above 1,000 mm, while the high altitude areas (Rwenzori mountains, Mount Elgon and the Ethiopian Highlands receive an average annual rainfall in excess of 1,500 mm. The northern part of Sudan and Egypt receives less than 50 mm and there are years, which are completely dry. This accentuates Egypt’s and Sudan’s full dependence on a steady flow of the Nile as very little surface runoff is generated there. Temperature is a significant factor in for instance evapotranspiration and is, together with water, essential for plant growth. In the Equatorial Lakes region and the Ethiopian Highlands, maximum temperatures are recorded in the range of 30oC while parts of the Blue Nile, Tekeze-Atbara and the White Nile in Sudan are measuring maximum temperatures of 45oC. High temperatures entail large evaporation losses from water surfaces like lakes and reservoirs.

Climate change as a result of global warming, is a challenge for water resources management and development. Adaptation is the immediate response to climate change and trends and statistics have to be closely monitored as they are no longer stable. Even small changes in temperature averages or extremes can have serious consequences for water resources availability, floods and droughts, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment and even health and safety.

The Nile Basin streamflow patterns are influenced by the variations in meteorological parameters such as rainfall and evaporation as well as by the physiography in terms of among others, topography, land cover, soils and geology. This is evident when comparing the White Nile and the Blue Nile being key tributaries to the Main Nile. The Blue Nile is highly seasonal with most of its flow occurring between July and September, while the White Nile flow is almost stable over the year mainly due to the regulating effect of Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert and the Sudd (a huge wetland in South Sudan). The Blue Nile contributes almost 160 percent of the annual flow of the White Nile and has a large potential for development of dams and reservoirs, among others, for hydropower production. Seasonality is a dominant hydrologic feature in the Nile riparian nations. This exposes the countries to floods and droughts with a devastating effect on the national economies and the affected communities. Kagera River is the southernmost river discharging into Lake Victoria. The reservoir effect of Lake Victoria makes the outflow almost constant and Jinja Dam is operated to simulate the natural outflow of roughly 900 m3/s as an annual average. The Nile continues through Lake Kyoga and the surrounding wetlands and run through a stretch with a good hydropower potential before it joins Lake Albert at Murchison Falls. The Nile continues through South Sudan and enters the Sudd, one of the largest wetlands in the world. A huge amount (approx. 50%) of the Nile inflow is lost to evaporation when passing the Sudd. The Nile proceeds towards Khartoum, where it is joined by the Blue Nile and now, combined flows of close to 2300 m3/s are recorded. The last significant contribution to the Nile flow comes from the Tekeze-Atbara Sub-basin where about 350 m3/s is received on the average. The Nile enters the reservoir created by High Aswan Dam. The reservoir, Lake Nasser, has capacity to regulate Nile flows on an inter-annual basis, but causes a huge water loss by evaporation estimated at roughly 10 – 12 BCM on the average. The Nile ends its 6700 km journey at the two branches at the Delta and close to 12BCM reaches the Mediterranean Sea – with a good proportion of this volume being drainage water from irrigation fields in Egypt. Surface water quality is mainly influenced by human activities relative to urban areas and industrial activities. Sediment production takes place in the upland areas with the Ethiopian Highlands as the main source compared to other parts of the Nile Basin.

Another source of water is groundwater, which is, however, not well studied and inadequately exploited. The most significant groundwater aquifer is the Nubian Sandstone underlying part of Egypt, Sudan, Chad and a part of Libya.

The water resources in the basin are essential for sustaining life, the economy and a healthy environment. Water is used off-stream (withdrawn e.g. for agriculture or domestic use), in-stream (e.g. hydropower, fisheries, environment) or on-stream (e.g. transport, tourism). The total area under irrigated agriculture in the Basin is estimated at 5.4 million hectares – over 97percent of the area lie in Egypt and Sudan.

By far, the largest consumptive use is for irrigation, which has been estimated at 82 BCM per year with over 96 percent of this occurring in Egypt and Sudan. In a region that is beset with strong seasonal and inter-annual variation of climate, storage dams provide one way of reducing vulnerabilities of water use sectors to climate shocks. The total storage capacity of dams in the Nile Basin is estimated at about 200 BCM. Water demand for municipal and industrial use, estimated at 12.9 BCM per year is rapidly increasing from the present estimates of roughly 400 m3/s. Forecasts for 2030 are expecting a five-fold increase and the Nile Basin population seen as a whole, will become unable to meet the water demand. The Nile Basin is expected to undergo substantial changes as more and more hydraulic infrastructure is realized to meet the growing water demands the riparian states. According to consulted national planning documents, the total storage capacity of dams in the Basin is expected to double by around 2040 – 2050; total area under irrigation can grow to 8.7 Million Hectares – an increase of some 60 percent of current size of irrigated areas; aggregate installed capacity of hydropower plants is expected to grow from a current value of 5600 MW to over 25,000 MW.

Unless actions are taken to enhance the water supply and manage the growth of consumptive demands, in a not too distant future, the Nile Basin will thus be in a critical situation, where increases in consumptive use in one sub-basin will have to be covered by decreases in consumptive use in another sub-basin and reallocation of water will have to be negotiated. Changes in climate could very well aggravate the situation. These conditions require a very high degree of trust, cooperation and sharing of water and benefits between the riparian nations. The Nile Basin Initiative has a vital, strategic mission in facilitating the cooperation, promoting Integrated Water Resources Management, providing access to Decision Support Systems and reliable databases and raising awareness on known or innovative ways of demand management, water conservation and efficiency in water use.


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River Nyamugasani

The water resources in the Nile Basin is serving multiple purposes and are essential for sustaining life, the economy and a healthy environment. Water is used off-stream (withdrawn e.g. for agriculture, municipal or industrial use), in-stream (e.g. hydropower, fisheries, environment) or on-stream (e.g. navigation, tourism and recreation). By far, the largest consumptive use is for agriculture/irrigation (roughly 2600 m3/s) although part of the abstraction is returned as drainage water. Egypt and Sudan are the largest users accounting for 96% of the total. Municipal and industrial consumption is estimated at over 400 m3/s. Population in the Nile Basin is forecasted to double by 2030 and municipal water demand will grow fivefold during the same period due to urbanization and increase in standard of living. Industrial demand will be likely to grow at a comparable rate. The largest municipal and industrial consumption is taking place in Egypt (close to 97%) followed by Sudan and Uganda. Drainage water from irrigation and sewage from urban areas and industries present pollution threats to the aquatic environment. A survey made in 2014 showed the existence of 14 storage dams basin-wide. The existing dams are highly beneficial from a power generation point of view and are also helping equalizing flows. However, there is substantial evaporation from the reservoir surfaces causing loss of water. The loss reaches an estimated 540 m3/s with 70% occurring from the reservoir of the High Aswan Dam

The total reservoir capacity per capita in the basin is very low compared to world benchmarks. In a region with severe seasonal and inter-annual variability and anticipated climate change, absence of adequate storage capacity adds to the vulnerability of the population as prudent reservoir operation can help reduce flood and drought impacts.
Hydropower is generated primarily in Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt but is only meeting a small part of the power demand. However, there is a large untapped potential for hydropower especially in the Blue Nile, where the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is under development and will become Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant with an installed capacity of 6000 MW

Fisheries and aquaculture are important users of water although not consumptive. Nile Basin fisheries are mainly seen in freshwater lakes, rivers and marsh sources as well as in human-derived aquaculture and has significant impact on the socio-economy. Fisheries require particular water qualities, quantities and seasonal timing of flows and water depths in lakes, rivers and wetlands.
The environment is another, though silent user. A sound aquatic environment is essential to maintain the productiveness of the water bodies and the wetlands and providing suitable habitats for diverse fauna and flora populations. Water pollution from urban and industrial sources endangers the soundness of the environment and the furthest downstream environment is at greatest risk.

Nine of the 11 Nile riparian nations have navigable water bodies and a total of 72 inland water ports with Egypt and Uganda having the highest numbers. Navigation is a sector that does not consume water. It depends on the water resources in terms of quantity (minimum water depths) and quality which can cause excessive amounts of, for instance the water hyacinth. Such plants can block harbors and prevent the launching of small crafts at landings.

In a not too distant future, the Nile Basin will be in a critical situation, where increases in consumptive use in one sub-basin will have to be covered by decreases in consumptive use in another sub-basin and reallocation of water will have to be negotiated. Changes in climate could very well aggravate the situation. These conditions require a very high degree of trust, cooperation and sharing of water and benefits between the riparian nations. The Nile Basin Initiative has a vital, strategic mission in facilitating the cooperation, promoting Integrated Water Resources Management, providing access to Decision Support Systems and reliable databases and raising awareness on known or innovative ways of demand management, water conservation and efficiency in water use.

Inland Waterway Transport

Inland navigation is often the most cost-effective and least polluting means of transport and, with improved trade and exchange, has contributed to the development of the Nile Basin riparian states economies. Inland waterways can efficiently convey large volumes of bulk commodities over long distances. However, inland shipping remains an underdeveloped sector on most waterways. Nine of the 11 Nile riparian countries have navigable water bodies, and a total of 72 inland water ports between them, with Egypt and Uganda having the highest number. The main areas important for inland water transport are Lake Victoria which provides a vital transportation link for Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania with the main ports being Jinja and Port Bell in Uganda, Kisumu in Kenya, and Mwanza, Musoma and Bukoba in Tanzania; Sections of the White Nile in South Sudan, and the Main Nile in The Sudan and Egypt.

In Egypt, the Nile is navigable by sailing vessels and shallow- draft river steamers as far south as Aswan. In South Sudan, steamers still provide the only means of transport facilities, especially where road transport is not usually possible from May to November, during the flood season. The Blue Nile has an 800 km stretch that is navigable during high water times. The main types of goods and services transported comprise agricultural produce, livestock, fish, general merchandise, and passengers. Inland ports, linked to other modes of transport connecting to international markets, also handle export/import traffic of agricultural products and manufactured goods. Navigation is a sector that does not consume water. It depends on the state of water resources in terms of quantity (a minimum depth is needed) and, quality (invasive aquatic plants or excessive solid waste in the water bodies would obstruct engines and waterways). It also brings the threat of potential hazards to water quality, such as oil spills from tankers operated on Lake Victoria, or ships degassing.

Inland waterway transport on Lake Victoria Lake Victoria is the primary inland waterway servicing both the central and northern corridors. Lake Victoria acts as a principal waterway with commercial traffic. In conjunction with train services, Uganda and Tanzania operate train wagon ferries on the lake between railhead ports of the two countries and Kenya.

The three main lake ports are: (i) Kisumu for Kenya, located in the North Eastern corner of the Winam Gulf, fronting Kenya’s third largest city, (ii) Mwanza South for Tanzania, located within a natural shallow bay on the Eastern shore of Mwanza Gulf, and (iii) Port Bell for Uganda, located at the end of Murchison Bay, South-East of Kampala. They are directly included in the regional multimodal trade routes, namely the Northern and Central Corridors

Traffic across all public ports on Lake Victoria is estimated at 500,000 tons a year. However, it should be noted that local traffic has increased since 2005 while international transit traffic has been decreasing (imports to Uganda estimated at 3,000 tons in Port Bell over the last years).

However, developing rivers for navigation often results in irreversible transformation of river courses, with negative impacts on vulnerable groups and ecosystems (such as fish mortality from propeller impact and larvae stranding due to drawdown).

Water use for Navigation

The hampering of port and navigation activities due to low water levels received much attention in the 2005/06 water level crisis on Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria transport system for passenger and goods suffered as well as its essential role for island connection. Declining water levels cause a decrease in draft and so ships cannot enter ports safely when the water depth is too shallow. During the water level crisis, various vessels had known difficulties to berth properly. Loading and offloading of passengers was severely affected in Tanzania. And several accidents involving their vessels found to be related to low lake levels. The minimum and maximum levels for days when accidents were reported are 10.76m and 11.05m (JJG) respectively.

Generally it may be concluded that the safety of marine navigation in Lake Victoria cannot be guaranteed below an elevation of 11.33 m, which corresponds to the highest level in 1957 when the lake was surveyed. The operation of vessels below this level is risky and if it has to be done, reassessment of the routes to ensure safety would be required. Low lake levels would also compromise most of the maintenance structures functioning, leading to a high operational cost of navigation.

In Kenya and Tanzania, maintaining the lake level between 11.5 and 12.5m (higher than the present 11m level) would rejuvenate navigational activities with positive effects to the livelihood and environmental sector. The opposite could be said of Uganda who heavily relies on power generation for livelihood at national scale. In general, it is envisaged that in all the five countries sharing Lake Victoria, the infrastructure, navigation risk and revenue will not be seriously affected while navigation and dredging cost may go up. These will in turn affect livelihoods and the environment.

Inland Fisheries Management and Development

Fisheries and aquaculture are important components of agricultural production and productivity in the Nile. Nile Basin fisheries are mainly freshwater lakes, rivers and marsh sources and human-derived aquaculture. Freshwater fisheries have a large potential to enhance income opportunities for many thousands of people and contribute towards food and nutritional security of millions in Kenya, southern Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Fisheries are non-consumptive users of water, but require particular qualities, quantities and seasonal timing of flows in rivers and dependent wetlands, lakes, and rivers.

Aquaculture production (metric tons)

Aquaculture is understood to mean the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, mollusks, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Aquaculture production specifically refers to output from aquaculture activities, which are designated for final harvest for consumption.

In 2014, aquaculture production in the Nile Basin countries reached 1,289,234 tons, 88% of which is farmed in Egypt. Egypt is the main producer of farmed fish; since the mid-1990s it has rapidly expanded its aquaculture. Aquaculture expansion has contributed to increasing the total fisheries production in Egypt. Aquaculture activities in Egypt are more concentrated in sub-regions of the Nile Delta, where the water resources are available. Most of the aqua culture production is derived from farmers’ use of earthen ponds in production systems. Uganda is a distant second of the total basin aquaculture production. Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan are developing fisheries with the help of foreign aid to boost production which, together with other basin countries, represents 1 per cent of the farmed fish in the basin.

Uganda’s aquaculture export market, regional use and employment have risen dramatically over the past 10 years. Aquaculture production is still negligible in most of the sampled countries, although in countries such as Kenya,– in addition to Tanzania which mostly cultivate seaweed – aquaculture is developing and its contribution to GDP is rising. Most aquaculture is conducted in earthen ponds, but at a wide range of intensities. At the low end are small ponds of less than 500 square meters, which contribute to the stability and durability of small-scale farming systems in Africa. When regularly stocked and fertilized, these units produce 1,000–2,000 kg per hectare per year of fish for household consumption and sale or barter. However, aquaculture has also contributed to serious water pollution when not well managed, a problem that is likely to intensify with increased aquaculture activities.

Capture fisheries production (metric tons)

Capture fisheries production measures the volume of fish catches landed by a country for all commercial, industrial, recreational and subsistence purposes.

Diminishing water level, and pollution have acute consequences for several economic sectors that depend on the basin lakes, It greatly affects the fishery by changing water levels. Water-level variations affect shallow waters and coastal areas which are of particular importance for numerous fish species, at least in certain stages of their lives. Pollution also poses a problem for fishery productivity in the Nile Basin. Some of the rivers feeding the lake and the shoreline are particularly polluted by municipal and industrial discharges. Cooperation between all concerned authorities is necessary to search for coherent solutions to ensure the sustainability of the fisheries.

Source: WDI, 2016

Lake Victoria Fisheries Trends in the most important fish stocks

Lake Victoria is the second largest lake in the world, covering an area of 68,000 km2 and surrounded by a dense and fast growing human population of at least 25 million people. In addition to its size, the lake is unique in several ways. It supports one of the world’s biggest inland fisheries aimed at both domestic consumption and international export and it has experienced some of the most extreme ecological perturbations ever observed in a large freshwater environment. The total catch from Lake Victoria by species is shown in the adjacent chart. The most notable change in the demersal Lake Victoria fish community and fishery is the fundamental metamorphosis in the mid 1980’s when it suddenly changed from being dominated by the diverse species flock of endemic haplochromines (contributing around 90% of the demersal biomass) to a much simpler fauna consisting of three primary species: Nile perch, Dagaa in the open waters and the introduced Nile tilapia along the shores.

Trends in effort and estimated total catch rates

Effort statistics prior to 2000 are less reliable than the catch statistics, but the overall pattern largely mirrors the changes in overall catches. There have been three main periods intersected with periods of rapid growth: the mixed cichlid fishery from the 1950s to the 1980s; the fast growing Nile perch fishery during the 1980s; the relatively stable Nile perch/Dagaa fishery from 1990 to the turn of the century; a doubling of the Dagaa fishery 2003 – 2006 and a possible new stable phase since 2005/6. Water levels, flows modification, pollution, affects fisheries production. From late 2000 to 2005, L- Victoria level receded on the coastline by ~5m, reducing fish habitats and spawning grounds.

Benefits from Fisheries Management in the Nile

Based on current stock estimates, the lake has the potential to yield fish valued at over US$ 800 million annually on a sustainable basis. Further processing and marketing the fish in the local and export markets could provide opportunity to generate additional earnings. Currently, however, only about 500,000 tons of fish is landed annually, with an average landing value of approximately US$ 600 million. Further processing and marketing of this fish in the local and export markets can generate an additional value of about US$ 57 million.

Inland fisheries, and related export and regional trade, can play a significant role in the economy of regions and countries. The sector contributes 4% to GDP in DR Congo and 2.5% in Tanzania (2013). Inland fisheries provide employment and income for several million people (estimated employment population employed in the sector amounts to 445,981 people.

Industrial sector contribution to national water withdrawal, 2014

Types of benefit Distribution
Kenya Uganda Tanzania
Production (US$ Mill.) 115 156 180
Contribution to GDP 0.5% 1.5% 1.8%
Employment of fishermen (2002) 54163 41674 80053
Foreign Exchange Earnings (US$ Mill) 50 88 112
Per Capita Fish Consumption (Kg/year), 5 12 12
Contribution to Animal Protein (1994-97) 10.6% 29.7% 32.6%
Balance of Trade N/A N/A N/A

Crop water produ ctivity in the Nile

Large gaps between actual and potential crop yields reflect the presence of socio- environmental conditions that limit production. In much of the Nile, lack of farmers’ access to available water is the prime constraint to crop production. With increasing numbers of people and their growing demand for food, combined with little opportunity to access new water sources, great need exists to make more productive use of agricultural water. Based on Crop Water Productivity, the spatial distribution of the basin can be divided into three zones: the high productivity zone, the average productivity zone and the low productivity zone. The WP index serves as a useful indicator of the performance of rain-fed and irrigated farming in water-scarce area

High productivity zone

The high productivity zone includes the delta and irrigated areas along the Nile River in the northern part of the basin. This zone is characterized by intensive irrigation, high yields and high-value crops. These characteristics collaboratively contribute to the high level of the WP attained and art’ in fact correlated. Access to irrigation results in higher yields; higher yield results in higher incomes; and higher incomes result in higher investment in from inputs by farmers.

Average productivity zone

The average productivity zone consists of two major areas, one in the eastern part (Ethiopia mainly) and the other in the southern part (areas around the Lake Victoria). Despite the fact that most of the areas in this zone receive relatively good amounts of rainfall, the predominantly rain fed agriculture has rather low yields and, therefore, relatively low Water Productivity. The fact that rainfall is sufficient to grow crops in this zone opens a wide prospect for improvement in this region. Two parallel strategies that could be applied are, first, improving farm water management and, second, promoting irrigated agriculture. The main obstacle for irrigated agriculture in this zone is accessibility to water rather than its availability. For example, in Ethiopia, due to lack of storage infrastructure the majority of generated run-off leaves the country without being utilized. Controlling these flows and diverting the water to farms can drastically improve both land and water productivity

Low productivity zone

The low productivity zone covers the central and western part of the basin. Agriculture in this zone is rain-fed and it receives a low amount of rainfall in most areas rainfall amounts received cannot meet the crop water demands and therefore crops suffer from high water stress. As a result, yields are extremely low. In this zone improving water and land productivity is contingent upon expanding irrigated agriculture. A good example that shows how irrigation can bring improvements is the Gezira scheme in Sudan.

This scheme is located in the same zone (geographically) but irrigation has resulted in significantly higher WP in the scheme compared to its surrounding rain-ted areas. However, due to poor water management, WP in the Gezira scheme is much lower than in irrigated areas in northern parts of the basin (i,e. in the delta).

Rain-fed agriculture

Rain-fed farming, covering 33.2 Million ha, is the dominant agricultural system in the Nile Basin. Over 70% of the basin population depends on rain-fed agriculture (Seleshi et at., 2010). Sudan, with 14.7 million ha accounts for 45% of the total rain-fed lands, followed by Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi. Low rainfall does not allow rain-fed farming in Egypt, and rain-fed areas of Eritrea that fall within the Nile boundary are almost negligible. The main rain-fed crop in the Nile Basin in terms of cultivated area is sorghum, followed by sesame, maize, pulses and millet, covering 7.39, 3.68, 3.35, 2.94 and 2.86 million ha, respectively. Rain-fed agriculture in the Nile Basin is characterized by low yields with the majority of crops having an average yield of less than 1ton /ha. Different sets of reasons have been proposed for the low yields in rain-fed systems from natural causes such as poor soils and droughtprone rainfall regimes to distance from urban markets (Allan, 2009). However, the opportunity of favorable rainfall in many rain-fed areas of the basin provides a high potential for yields to increase by improved farm water management techniques such as rainwater harvesting. While the proportion of (evapotranspiration) ET from rain-fed crops remains relatively stable between years, the absolute amount varies very significantly, from 180 to 256 km3, representing a large difference in potential crop production between years and at the same time illustrating the risks associated with rain-fed agriculture in the region. The variability is in low rainfall areas: the ratio of rain-fed crop ET between the driest and the wettest years is around 0.7- 0.9 in the humid uplands, but falls to around 0.5 in the semi-arid catchments of central Sudan and the Atbara basin. In terms of food security, this annual variability is exacerbated by the occurrence of multi-year droughts.

Under these conditions, opportunistic cropping in wet years may be a viable strategy commercially, although it is difficult to reconcile it with the need for subsistent smallholders to produce crop every year to ensure food security. Much of the additional food demand in the Nile partner states is expected to be met through improvements in rain fed agriculture. The vast untapped potential of rain fed agriculture could be unlocked through knowledge-based management of land and water resources, bridging the yield gaps (a factor of two to four) between the current farmers’ yield and the researcher-managed or commercial plot yields (Rockström et al. 2007).

Small-scale agricultural water management techniques, such as rainwater harvesting and groundwater within a watershed management approach have important potential roles in securing rain-fed crops in these regions. Araya and Stroosnijder (2011) found that in northern Ethiopia, where crops failed in more than a third of years in the period 1978-2008, one month of supplementary irrigation at the end of the wet season could avoid 80 per cent of crop yield losses and 50 per cent of crop failures. Other strategies used in the area to manage erratic rainfall include supplementary irrigation to establish crops (to avoid false starts to the wet season), postponement of sowing until adequate soil moisture is available, and growing quickly maturing cash crops such as chickpea at the end of the growing period, to utilize unused soil water reserves.

Irrigation areas in Rwanda

The total area equipped for irrigation in Rwanda is estimated at 11467 ha. With an estimated cropped area of 7000 ha, the overall cropping intensity is 61%. Main crop planted in most irrigation schemes is rice. The total estimated irrigation water demand for all schemes is about 58 MCM and actual abstraction estimates lie at 57.4 MCM, which indicates a volumetric demand satisfaction rate of about nearly 99.% Irrigation in Rwanda dates back to 1945 when the Belgians built the main Ntaruko – Rubengera canal with 8 km of length to irrigate a small farm. From 1962 to 1994, the total cultivated and irrigated lands were estimated to be 4000 ha. The major part of irrigated lands (8.3% of the estimated potential) are located is in the marsh lands that cover 164,947 ha with around 57% already cultivated with an estimated 11,467 ha currently managed with moderate irrigation structures (regulators, diversions, head works, etc.).

Rice is an important crop and approximately 62,000 tons are produced annually on about 12,000 ha. Due to the retention of flood flows, the marshlands are important to downstream users as they maintain relatively continuous flow rates in the dry season.

Scheme Name Equipped area (ha)
Base 170
Codervam 460
Gisaya 300
Kabuye 344
Mareba 200
Mirenge 600
Muhazi 96
Mukunguli 440
Ntende 120
Mushikiri 160
Ngenda 756
P4 460
Cyunuzi-Rwa 400
Kibaya 240
Nasho 160
PRB (8 schemes) 4358
Runukangoma 170
Ruramira 90
Rusuri-Rwam 600
Rwamagana (5 schemes) 1343
Total Equipped area 11467


Irrigated Areas in Democratic Republic of Congo

The Nile basin in DRC covers less than 1% of the area of the country. The area is hilly and does not really lend itself to irrigation. This area is rather densely populated with most people engaged in cattle rearing and fishery activities around Lake Albert. It is considered that about 10,000 ha could be developed for irrigation (FAO, 1997).

Major crops grown include Cereals (rice, maize), Tubers, Cash crops (coffee, cocoa) and Sugarcane. In the past, the national program for rice production (PNR) has managed 80 ha including the reparation of irrigation canals and drainage and the distribution of pumping material. It has also managed a total of 300 ha of valley bottoms in the Kikwit region, the Ruzizi valley in the south of Kivu, Lodja in East Kasai, Mbandaka-Bikoro, Gemena-Karawa and Bumba in the Equator Province. The total irrigated water withdrawal for the Nile basin part has been estimated at 600,000 m3 per year (FAO, 2010)

Irrigation areas in Uganda

Agriculture dominates the Ugandan economy. The average cropped area in a given year is estimated at 9,700 ha with a cropping intensity of about 80%t. Over 80% of the irrigation area gets water from Victoria Nile. Main crops cultivated are sugarcane, rice and vegetables. The total estimated total annual irrigation water demand is 260 MCM. Irrigation is a relatively new as rainfall has been more or less sufficient in the past. Most parts of the country experience at least one long rainy season and this has been sufficient for farmers to produce at least one crop a year. In the past, irrigation was only practiced during the dry season at small-scale informal level with most of this located on the fringes of swamps. Nowadays rainfall has become less reliable with supplementary irrigation needed in rain season at times and much of this has been developed by smallholders without planning and with little or no technical assistance. The technology used is basic and approaches are sometimes inappropriate.

Most smallholder schemes grow rice and vegetables, with the larger commercial estates cultivating rice and sugarcane. Most irrigation developments use surface methods although the more recent developments involving greenhouse irrigated flower farms that started in 1990s utilized drip and micro sprinkler.

Some work has started on the water for production component (WfP) for Uganda, but this has still a long way to go. An irrigation policy is in place. There is a strong need to clearly establish the needs for irrigation and drainage and the process by which it can be realized. This needs to go hand in hand with the training of technical staff to support any proposed interventions.

Ser No Scheme Name DISTRICT Equipped area (ha)
1 Nyamugasani Kasese 360
2 Mubuku Kasese 516
3 Olweny Lira 500
4 Lugazi Sugar Jinja 2000
5 Agoro Kitgum 130
6 Kakira Sugar Mukono 6800
7 Tilda Uganda (kibimba) Iganga 600
8 Doho Tororo 830
9 Total Roses Wakiso / Mukono 280
Total 12016
Drip irrigation in a flower farm in a green house in Entebbe, Uganda