CRAG II: Building the Climate Change Resilience in the Lake Kivu and Rusizi River Catchments

Ruhwa river at the boundary between Rwanda and Burundi (c) Providence Akayezu

Project Countries: Rwanda and Burundi

Project Area: Sebeya and Ruhwa River Systems (Rwanda), Muhira River system (Burundi)

Project Duration: April 2017 – March 2019

Project Partners: BirdLife International will lead on the project implementation and fundraising; working together with its partner in Burundi: the Association Burundaise pour la Protection de la Nature (ABN). BirdLife will also closely collaborate with the Government and NGOs in Rwanda and Burundi. E.g. the Water for Growth Rwanda and Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority.

Project Donor: MacArthur Foundation

  CRAGs II sites in Rwanda
CRAGs II sites in Burundi

What is CRAG?

The acronym CRAGs stands for Climate Resilient Altitudinal Gradients.

It is a new concept that was developed during the formulation of the conservation strategy for the Great Lakes Region of East and Central Africa, funded by MacArthur Foundation. CRAGs are landscape units with a minimum altitudinal range of 1,000 meters above sea level. The CRAGs are also characterized by climate resilient biodiversity and ecosystem service values. Altitudinal Gradients (AGs) in the African Great Lakes Region (GLR) are found on the very steep slopes of the Kivu/Rusizi Catchments; but also at more gentle hillsides around Lake Victoria.

AGs are key for domestic and industrial use, they sustain Biodiversity and all life of humans around the Great Lakes. Their vulnerability to climate change affects both human and natural well-being. The CRAG approach gives space for climate change resilience, it ensures that ecosystem services are maintained, involves the buffer zone management (Key Biodiversity Areas) , integrated watershed management, focused land use policy and advocacy. For the CRAG approach, local communities work on the conservation of marginal lands across the GLR.                                                                                                  


What is our goal?

Long-term goal: Reduced vulnerability and enhanced resilience of 2 million people in the basins and the ecosystems upon which they depend. This is the approximate number of inhabitants, all of whom are dependent at the very least on fresh water provision and regulation.

Short-term goal: Rates of erosion and sedimentation reduced by at least 10% in three river systems in the Kivu-Rusizi Basins. A 10% reduction is a conservative target; project activities will enable a precise evaluation of whether this goal is achieved.



What are the Challenges?

The problem is accelerated environmental degradation as a result of climate change, with severe implications for biodiversity and human livelihoods. Rainfall is projected to increase by over 200 mm/year and dry season temperatures by more than 2°C by 2060. As the Kivu/Rusizi basins are fringed by rugged mountains rising to over 3,000 m a.b.s.l; and steep slopes with degraded vegetation and bare soils, an increase in the intensity, quantity and frequency of rainfall on exposed soils will accelerate erosion and sedimentation. This will increase the water turbidity, lower dissolved oxygen levels, and reduce hydropower output, irrigation efficiency, soil fertility and fish productivity (Lake Tanganyika Authority Strategic Plan, 2011). 


What are the key activities for CRAGS II?

The second phase of the CRAG focuses on one recommendation from the CRAG Intervention Plan (CIP): ‘controlling lake and river sedimentation from the root source’.

The project consists of three main components that will last for 24 months, starting from April 2017:

  1. Identification of erosion hotspots that contribute most to the sedimentation of Sebeya, Ruhwa Rivers in Rwanda and Muhira River in Burundi. The three river systems were selected based on stakeholder workshop recommendations, but also by considering the hydropower production and other complementary projects (Sebeya), sediment load (Muhira) and contrasting land use (Ruhwa).
  2. Engagement and empowerment of communities at these sites to reduce erosion and sedimentation using well established ecosystem based adaptation and soil conservation techniques. In addition, at each river system, two Local Conservation Groups (LCGs) will be established and engaged in the sediments and soil data collection, and later involved in suggesting and implementing interventions for climate change adaptation.
  3. Influencing policy; through the long term contribution to the analysis of the existing policy and laws, and proposing improvements for the law enforcement and compliance.

Read more about the first phase of the CRAG Project (CRAG I)

For more news about CRAGs, please visit our CRAG news page here.