The Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture. Copyright: Arup; The Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture. Copyright: Arup;

Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture, Bugesera District, Rwanda

Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture

Land pressure, deforestation, degraded soils and climate change are creating a food shortage in Rwanda, the most densely populated country on the continent. With the population set to double by 2050 and with 80% of the population reliant on agriculture for their livelihood, there is a pressing need to promote more sustainable agricultural techniques. 

The Rwanda Institute of Conservation Agriculture is a new university in the south of Rwanda. The project was conceived and is being funded by the Howard G Buffet Foundation, whose mission is to address food security for the world’s most impoverished and marginalized populations. This project represents the culmination of a collaboration between MASS Design Group and Arup International Development that started in 2012 and has included traditional design services as well as secondment of staff and technical support to MASS’s local engineering team.

The campus consists of 20,350m2 of buildings over a 1300 hectare site, with buildings containing academic spaces, housing for staff, students and livestock, with a solar array providing clean energy. The project draws upon what is available locally touching the ground lightly and even looks to preserve natural habitats. The project will create significant social value whilst protecting soil and water, balancing the needs of society and the environment and delivering great social value. 

Over a 4 year period, Arup has provided technical and engineering expertise to the project in the fields of civil, structural, MEP, geotechnical, geological and seismic design. Our civils team carried out detailed design of earthworks, roads, surface water, raw water, potable water, wastewater treatment and reticulation, as well as owner engineer services for the solar plant. Our structures team carried out concept design of buildings on site and subsequently provided technical support and training to the local structural engineering team.

Developing a sustainable campus

The project has been designed to push the boundaries of sustainable design through selection of low carbon natural materials, passive design, off-grid site wide infrastructure and landscape. The project makes a positive contribution to 15 of the 17 UNSDGs. 

  • Addressing food security: The institute will train the next generation improved agricultural techniques and One Health principles. Recognizing that the health of humans, animals and ecosystems are interconnected. Conservation agriculture embodies a set of crop and livestock production practices which maintain or improve the soil and water health.

  • Education and skills: The institute will provide full scholarships to 84 students a year, who will earn a BSc in Conservation Agriculture through a three year, internationally recognized programme.   In addition it includes a community out reach facility which will provide training and support to the local community.

  • Creating employment: jobs created during construction with 90% employed from the local area and 96% from Rwanda. 

  • Embodied carbon minimised:Buildings are constructed from natural materials, 96% (by weight) of which are sourced within Rwanda and have on average 175kg/m2 embodied carbon (53% less than the global average for educational construction projects).

  • Energy consumption minimised: Water storage and pumping systems are designed to minimise energy consumption. The buildings are configured to minimise energy consumption in operation by optimising passive cooling and ventilation, with most being naturally ventilated. 

  • Renewable off grid power supply: 1.5MW on site solar array will provide 100% of the sites power demand.

  • Renewable off grid water supply: The sites water infrastructure is also off grid with water sustainably extracted from the lake at a rate no greater than it will be replenished naturally.

  • Nature based solutions: The site surface water drainage system employs sustainable drainage principles including swales and attenuation basins to maximise groundwater infiltration and minimise erosion and transfer of sediment to the lake.

  • Waste water: Wastewater is managed on site and used for agricultural irrigation to further reduce fresh water abstraction.

From the start, the design team set out to ensure the engineering of the infrastructure and buildings would reflect the values of the wider project. It's fantastic to see that all of these design measures from early discussions are now completed, or else under construction. ” Tim White Tim White Associate, International Development

The Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture. Copyright: Arup The Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture. Copyright: Arup

We worked with MASS Design Group since 2013, sharing a mission that led ultimately to a unique design collaboration and the RICA campus