Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 39–53 | Cite as

An integrated social-ecological assessment of ecosystem service benefits in the Kagera River Basin in Eastern Africa

  • Ahmed S. KhanEmail author
  • Hongmei Yi
  • Linxiu Zhang
  • Xiubo Yu
  • Erasme Mbanzamihigo
  • Gisele Umuhumuza
  • Thierry Ngoga
  • Sedami Igor Armand Yevide
Original Article


Sustaining multiple ecosystem service benefits in transboundary river basins is a complex and challenging task in the developing world. This can be attributed to conflicting conservation and human development needs and exacerbated by climate change impacts, especially episodic drought and flooding events. We use a case study from Rwanda in the Kagera River Basin in Eastern Africa to contextualize and examine how land use cover change, water access, and agro-ecosystems are vulnerable to myriad human and natural drivers of change. An integrated framework is employed for a nested social-ecological assessment of ecosystem service benefits drawing upon landscape and vulnerability mapping, agro-commodity value chains, and institutional analyses. The conceptual framework and case study provide leverage points for vertical and horizontal linkages that include cross-sectoral partnerships, multi-level governing networks, integrated water resource management, and livelihood security. Moreover, synergy between development and conservation outcomes can be achieved through joint adaptation planning and stewardship initiatives at the local district level with full participation of resource users and community leaders. These lessons from Rwanda and the Kagera River Basin provide opportunities for mainstreaming adaptation and development planning and building resilience towards regional environmental change in Eastern Africa.


Ecosystem services Land use cover change Climate change Livelihoods Vulnerability mapping Value chains Kagera River Basin 



The first author also acknowledges financial contribution under the Young International Scientist Fellow program (grant no. 2012 Y1ZA0010). The research assistantship by Shaoxia Xia, Ling Ge, and Suqun Qu are greatly appreciated. Adrie Mukashema and Stephane Mugabo provided statistical data and shape files that made the livelihood vulnerability mapping possible. Thanks to Andrew Song for providing materials on preference ranking and to Jeremy Pittman for providing useful suggestions. Two anonymous reviewers provided critical comments and suggestions that strengthened the paper.

Funding information

This research was jointly funded by the National Natural Sciences Foundation of China (grant nos. 31161140355 and 31361140360) and the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resource Research (CAS Grant no. 2012SJ005).

Supplementary material

10113_2018_1356_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (335 kb)
Annex 1 (PDF 334 kb)
10113_2018_1356_MOESM2_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Annex 2 (DOCX 19 kb)
10113_2018_1356_MOESM3_ESM.docx (26 kb)
Annex 3 (DOCX 25 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ahmed S. Khan
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hongmei Yi
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Linxiu Zhang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Xiubo Yu
    • 1
    • 5
  • Erasme Mbanzamihigo
    • 1
    • 6
  • Gisele Umuhumuza
    • 7
  • Thierry Ngoga
    • 6
    • 8
  • Sedami Igor Armand Yevide
    • 1
    • 9
    • 10
  1. 1.United Nations Environment Program- International Ecosystem Management Partnership (UNEP-IEMP), Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Khan & Associates Sustainability Consulting Inc.FloridaUSA
  3. 3.United Nations Environment Program- International Ecosystem Management Partnership, & Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.School of Advanced Agricultural SciencesPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  5. 5.United Nations Environment Program- International Ecosystem Management Partnership & Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  6. 6.Rwanda Natural Resources AuthorityKigaliRwanda
  7. 7.Rwanda Environment Management AuthorityKigaliRwanda
  8. 8.Growth Consultant for ChangeLondonUK
  9. 9.United Nations Environment Program- International Ecosystem Management Partnership & Key Lab of Digital Earth Sciences, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital EarthChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  10. 10.Proforest Africa OfficeAccraGhana

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