22 May 2019

Rwanda: Kirehe - Irrigation Schemes Boost Farmers' Incomes

In drought-prone Eastern Province, relying on rainfall for crop husbandry has never been a viable option.

That's why, four years ago, the Government and Howard G. Buffett Foundation signed a $24 million (about Rwf21.5 billion) partnership to develop an irrigation project in Nasho Sector, Kirehe District.

Since the establishment of the scheme near Lake Nasho, which covers 1,172 hectares, farmers have recorded significant improvement in their output, offsetting sustained years of unstable earnings and food output.

"Today, we make a profit from our yields," said Providence Niragire, a farmer from Cyambwe Cell.

Niragire is among the 2,099 farmers who use the irrigation project.

This season, which started in February and ends this June, the farmers, who are grouped under Nasho Irrigation Cooperative (NAICO) cultivated soybeans on 423 hectares, maize 663 hectares and the remaining hectares were reserved for beans--the highest they have ever cultivated.

With sustainable supply of water for irrigation, the farmers are now planning to diversify their sources of income by venturing into horticulture.

The province - made up of seven districts of Kirehe, Bugesera, Kayonza, Ngoma, Nyagatare, Gatsibo and Rwamagana - experiences the worst drought in Rwanda, threatening to weaken the country's prospects of strengthening agriculture.

From September to December last year, 31,252.8 hectares of crop were devastated by drought, leaving an estimated 41,030 households in the province vulnerable to food insecurity.

This prompted the Government to send food rations to support the affected families, mainly in Bugesera, Kayonza and Kirehe districts.

With the irrigation scheme now functioning fully, farmers are optimistic that their output will continue to rise and therefore the challenges will be addressed.

Before the irrigation scheme, Niragire used to earn between Rwf200,000 and 300,000 from her yields a season from 1.5 hectares.

Today, she generates Rwf700,000.

Gervais Rekeraho, another farmer from Cyambwe Cell, said that last season he harvested 11 tonnes and 80 kilogrammes of maize from one hectare.

"Before the irrigation system, I could not produce more than three tonnes a hectare," he added.

Hiccup

This season, however, Rekeraho does not expect any produce as the pivot that caters for the farms experienced a breakdown, and crops were not irrigated since March 2018. The pivot serves 70 farmers.

When the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Gerardine Mukeshimana, visited them Friday last week, she promised to fix the problem.

Mukeshimana said that the quantity of maize produce increased to six tonnes per hectare from two tonnes a hectare.

Government says it will complete the construction of another $120 million irrigation system in the next three years.

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