Rwanda Agriculture and Fishing Overview

Agriculture and fishing

Nine out of ten residents in Rwanda are farmers, most of whom grow for their own needs on very small estates. Coffee and tea are important export goods. Food shortages are a common problem as there is a shortage of cultivable land.

  • CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Rwanda. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.

Traditionally, agriculture has contributed to most of the country’s GDP, but now the service sector with trade and tourism is larger. Today, agriculture accounts for one third of GDP. Of the formal workforce, just over four out of ten wage earners are found in agriculture.

Since the 1980s, food shortages have been a problem and sometimes it has been starving. The hope of gaining more land probably contributed to persuading Hutu peasants to kill their Tutsi neighbors during the 1994 genocide (see Modern History). That year, almost all agriculture was put into a halt, which led to an almost cessation of food production. In 1998, production reached the same level as before the genocide. However, it is still grown less than needed. For Rwanda defense and foreign policy, please check prozipcodes.

The government is pushing for small growers to pool their fields, obtain common equipment and invest more in fertilizers to streamline production and increase harvests. A law from 2005 gives the state the right to confiscate agricultural land without compensating previous owners. The law is motivated by the need to rationalize and commercialize agriculture. But redistributing land ownership is a sensitive issue and the law raises concerns that the Tutsi elite should seek revenge for the genocide by seizing Hutu’s land.

Rwanda’s coffee is of high quality and is the country’s leading export product. For good years, coffee alone accounts for between 70 and 80 percent of export earnings. Tea is also an important export commodity. Both crops are heavily affected by the weather and income varies greatly from year to year depending on the world market price.

The most important food crops are cooking bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava, beans, sorghum and corn. Investments are being made to increase the production of rice, both for the domestic market and for exports.

During the civil war in the early 1990s, most livestock animals were killed. To some extent this was offset by the fact that Tutsis who returned from the country flight brought large herds of mainly cows and goats. Nowadays, the stock of cattle is about as large as before the genocide.

During the 2010s, considerable efforts were made to develop the cultivation of cut flowers for export to Europe. Production has increased rapidly.

Fishing is carried out to a limited extent, mainly Kivusjön.


Agriculture’s share of GDP

29.0 percent (2018)

Percentage of land used for agriculture

73.4 percent (2016)



Strict punishment for Ingabire

The Supreme Court tightens the sentence for opposition leader Victoire Ingabire (see October 2012), from eight years in prison to twelve years. The convict conviction for planning terrorism and aggravation of the 1994 genocide stands firm, while Ingabire is now also convicted of conspiracy against the authorities.


FPR wins the parliamentary elections

The ruling Tutsidominated party FPR wins as expected a major victory in the parliamentary elections. It receives just over 76 percent of the vote, which means it backs to 41 seats. The Social Democratic Party gets 13 percent (7 seats), while the Liberal Party gets just over 9 percent (5 seats). The only real opposition party, the Social Party Imberakuri, gets half a percent of the vote.


Democratic green party officially registered

The Democratic Green Party can be officially registered, four years after its founding. It is the second openly opposition party that is allowed to stand in elections. But the Democratic Green Party is not allowed to take part in the parliamentary elections in September 2013, as it was registered too late to allow them to submit their lists.


Law on “genocide ideology” is updated

The Senate unanimously adopts a new law on “genocide ideology”, after the House of Representatives approved it earlier this month. It replaces the law from 2008 that has been accused of such vague and sweeping wordings that, according to critics, it could be used to restrict freedom of expression and silence the opposition. In order for someone under the new law to be convicted of incitement to genocide, criminal intent must be proven and the threat has been brought before more than one person.


Rebel leaders are handed over to the ICC

Rwanda hands the Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The Rwandan-born Ntaganda, who leads the M23 rebel movement in Congo-Kinshasa, has spent a few days at the US embassy in Kigali. He has been wanted by the ICC for seven years.

Rwanda Agriculture and Fishing