This article analyses factors that contribute to the livelihood of smallholder farmers living near the Cyabayaga and Rugeramigoziwetlands. Three tools were used: focus group discussion, formal surveys and Monitoring for Quality Improvement (MONQI). Farming systems in wetlands and on hillsides differ. Level of education, resource availability, land ownership and location have important impacts on the location and type of farming systems practised by households. The dependency of households on wetlands varies between sites. Field size, status of soil fertility and input use are also key factors determining the level of contribution that wetland agriculture makes to farmers' livelihoods. In Cyabayaga, the per-household per-year contribution of wetland cultivation to gross margin was 74% ($1901) compared to 24% ($84) in Rugeramigozi. The rice in Cyabayaga was the largest contributor to household income, providing on average $1045 per household per season. Vegetables cultivated in the dry season in Rugeramigozi have high potential as cash crops. Poor maintenance of drainage and irrigation channels, as well as inappropriate cropping systems in wetlands, can undermine sustainability and have repercussions for the livelihoods of farmers who depend on agricultural wetlands.