The Akagera River is the largest tributary of Lake Victoria contributing almost 34% of the lake’s inflow. The Akagera river basin covers 60,500 Square Kilometers of the portions from four countries like Rwanda covering the largest portion of 21,630 square kilometers, Burundi with 13,790 Square kilometers and the republic of Tanzania occupying 20,680 square kilometers and Uganda with the smallest area of 4,400 Km2 and comprises four hydro geographical zones; Congo-Nile divide, Hills and mountain foot ridges, Swamps and lake terrain and west Victoria lake region. The river basin is sub-basin of Nile basin. Basically, the river Akagera starts in the swamps and lake terrain zone and has 3 major tributaries, including Nyabarongo, Akanyaru and Ruvubu rivers. This zone is dominated by papyrus swamps which act as habitat to different bird species, wild life, lakes which offer water to the wildlife, birdlife of Akagera national park, open water and the river itself.
The wetlands around Akagera are of tremendous importance to the nearby communities around Akagera national park because the locals draw water for domestic use from the wetlands, they also act as fishing grounds, and some parts of the wetlands are used as areas where locals practice rice growing, Different raw materials used by the locals for handcraft-making, and building materials like grasses for livestock are all extracted from the wetlands.
Akagera swamps-Most of the Akagera swamps are occupied by Cyperus papyrus and Phoenix reclinata and the swamp is permanent home for rare Shoebill (threatened to extinction in Rwanda) and other water birds, hippos, buffaloes, giraffes, impalas and Sitatunga. The Akagera wetlands are the site for migratory water birds.
Although these critical ecosystems are very important, they are threatened by human activities such as reclamation, overexploitation, pollution and introduction of invasive species driven by high population growth and density and poor management plan and policy. This is aggravated by the effects of climate change that impact poor communities and get them highly dependent on ecosystems to survive.
With regard to the importance of these ecosystems, through the project termed “Stakeholders Engagement for Informed Decision-Making, Threats Mitigation and Sustainable Freshwater Services Management in the Great Lakes Region of East and Central Africa”, ARCOS maintains an integrated monitoring programme to document the changes affecting the Akagera river Basin with a focus on protecting its remaining wetlands.