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Nyabarongo River and its associated wetland are ecosystems that provide goods and services to the Rwandese communities at national level in various ways including agriculture, fisheries and transport. Internationally, Nyabarongo River serves as a tributary of the Nile River. However, this important wetland system has been over-exploited and degraded due to increasing pressure for expansion of agricultural land. Consequently, the continued viability of agrarian livelihoods and sustainability of the wetland system are uncertain.

Against the aforementioned background, the present study was undertaken to assess farmers' maximum willingness to pay (WTP) for protection and conservation of Nyabarongo River system. Further, the study assessed the potential influence of different factors on the WTP estimates. A sample of 359 households from four Districts in the catchment area was randomly selected and interviewed through household survey questionnaires. The contingent valuation method (CVM) was applied to evaluate the amount of money farmers are willing to pay while the influence of different factors was assessed using the Ordinary Least Squared method.

Results showed that the mean household's maximum WTP for the protection of Nyabarongo River system was 486.4 Rwf per household per month over the proposed five years (USD$l = 607 Rwf). The main factors that were found to have significant statistical influence on the WTP are household income, education of the household head, respondent's perception about the current quality of water in Nyabarongo River, access to tap water, household size,
membership in a group of environmental interest, knowledge of individual responsibilities in the protection of the wetland, extension contacts and the initial bid amount. Based on these findings, it can be concluded that Nyabarongo River system riparian communities attach considerable economic value to the river system. In order to achieve sustainable management of the wetland, there is need to promote concerted efforts by all the stakeholders by providing proper incentives to these communities and taking into account their preferences in terms of
intervention measures to protect and conserve Nyabarongo River system.