Rwanda: Drought-Hit Farmers to Get Solar-Powered Irrigation

Nasho Solar-Powered Irrigation Scheme in Kirehe District (file photo).

Farmers who were counting losses due to dry spells for years could start harvesting vegetables- pepper, eggplants and French beans- thanks to a multi-million solar-powered irrigation along Lake Cyohoha in Bugesera District.

Despite living nearby Lake Cyohoha, their crops were always ravaged by drought due to lack of irrigation facilities.

Anastase Sikubwabo, a member of farmers' cooperative "Abakoranumurava" in Kibenga cell of Mayange Sector in Bugesera District, recounts how dry spells devastated his crops last year.

"We only depending on rain to grow sweet potatoes, beans, and maize. We only grow crops for only two seasons per year out of three seasons because we were not able to exploit season C due to dry spells without irrigation. But even due to climate weather variability, last year we faced dry spells in Season B and counted losses," he said.

After counting losses, the Ministry of Agriculture intervened to distribute food relief to the affected farmers.

"I expected to harvest eight sacks of beans, but I didn't even harvest a single sack of beans," he said.

The loss means that the farmer lost 800 Kilogrammes of beans considering that one sack weighs over 100 Kg. One Kilogramme goes for about Rwf500.

Maize, groundnuts are also among the crops that were most hit due to lack of irrigation.

Ramadhan, another smallholder farmer said he was expecting to harvest four sacks of beans but ended up counting losses.

Figures show that drought triggers at least $30 million direct economic losses across the country according to the National Disaster Risk Profile.

"The poor harvest due to drought has triggered the increase of beans prices across the country in the past many months," he said

The farmers could soon smile following an installation of Rwf117 million irrigation dam drawing water from Lake Cyohoha to irrigate their crops under the support of Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board and USAID-funded Hinga Weze project.

The project seeks to benefit 700,000 smallholder farmers in ten target districts namely Bugesera, Gatsibo, Kayonza, and Ngoma (Eastern Province); Karongi, Ngororero, Nyabihu, Nyamasheke, and Rutsiro (Western Province); and Nyamagabe (Southern Province) and across five value chains: high-iron beans, orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP), Irish potato, maize, and horticulture.

In response to the dry spells and water shortages in the area, farmer promoters and community health workers were trained on embracing smart agriculture, food safety and hygiene in food preparation through hand-washing facilities installation so as to cope with impacts of COVID-19 on the farming community.

Over 36,000 households from farming, communities are expected to adopt food safety and hygiene practices in 10 districts across the country.

World Food Safety Day was celebrated on June 7, 2020 to ensure that food from farm to table are safe.

To ensure food security and good nutrition, Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board has urged farmers to focus on planting vegetables on over 10,000 hectares under Agricultural Season C starting this June in wetlands and irrigated areas.

The irrigation dam in Mayange sector of Bugesera District will store 500 cubic metres to irrigate vegetables.

The cooperative of 74 farmers have been linked to big vegetable exporters under the signed agreement as part of efforts to link farmers to the market.

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