RNA interference (RNAi) is a process in which double-stranded RNA is cleaved into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that induce the destruction of homologous single-stranded mRNAs. Argonaute proteins are essential components of this silencing process; they bind siRNAs directly and can cleave RNA targets using a conserved RNase H motif. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the Argonaute protein RDE-1 has a central role in RNAi. In animals lacking RDE-1, the introduction of double-stranded RNA does not trigger any detectable level of RNAi. Here we show that RNase H activity of RDE-1 is required only for efficient removal of the passenger strand of the siRNA duplex and not for triggering the silencing response at the target-mRNA level. These results uncouple the role of the RDE-1 RNase H activity in small RNA maturation from its role in target-mRNA silencing in vivo.