Farmers are appealing for sustainable funding to rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure that was destroyed by floods in different years.
Ignace Mugenzi, the president of Coproriz - a cooperative of rice growers in Mukunguri wetland, which that connects Kamonyi and Ruhango districts - told The New Times that last year floods damaged their irrigation system worth about Rwf2 billion.
"A part of the infrastructure has been rehabilitated but the main and crucial infrastructure is yet to be rehabilitated due to financial constraints," he said, appealing for government intervention.
At least 2,198 farmers grouped under Coproriz lost 135 hectares of rice due to flooding.
Mugenzi estimates that in total they lost 810 tonnes of potential rice harvest, which is equivalent to Rwf225.9 million based on the current market price.
A kilogramme of unprocessed rice goes for Rwf279. They were expecting to harvest 1,500 tonnes.
"Over a half of the harvest was lost," he said.
At least 98 per cent of the harvest from the cooperative is supplied to Mukunguri rice processing factory in the area.
The farmers' losses also affected the factory's operations, which were halted due to the supply shortages of inputs.
"Normally we used to till over 400 hectares. But a big part of the wetland is no longer tillable because sand and debris have accumulated in the wetland," Mugenzi said. "We are gradually doing our best to recover at least between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the lost land at the same time mobilizing resources to rehabilitate damaged irrigation facilities."
According to RAB, over 3,500 hectares were damaged by floods in May last year across the country.
The report by the Ministry of Emergency indicated that 5,968.653 hectares of crops were damaged by floods throughout 2020.
Lack of sustainable source of funding
Charles Bucagu, the Deputy Director General in charge of Agriculture Research and Technology Transfer at RAB told this paper that lack of sustainable source of funding has been the main barrier to rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure affected by floods.
He cited Bugarama marshland farmers in Rusizi District, Kamiranzovu marshland in Burera District and wetlands in Kamonyi District as the most affected.
He said they usually expect between Rwf8 billion and Rwf10 billion every fiscal year to rehabilitate the damaged irrigation infrastructure but the budget has been cut.
This has pushed the rehabilitation to be catered for in medium-term expenditure framework meaning from 2022/23 to 2023/24 fiscal years.
"The budget allocated to rehabilitating flood-damaged irrigation facilities has been decreasing. We are now mulling alternative sources of funding. At least Rwf10 billion is needed every year but the institution had been allocated only Rwf3 billion last fiscal year and no budget was allocated in the current fiscal year," he said.
"Now what we're doing is gradual rehabilitation. We are also resorting to temporary measures through community works including removing flood-caused debris from tillable wetlands and cleaning irrigation dams while urging farmers on hills to control erosion through terraces and planting agroforestry. Otherwise, they risk losing three consecutive agricultural seasons," he noted.
He said that while gradual rehabilitation is currently sourcing some funding from Government Funded Irrigation (GFI) project and other projects, authorities are mulling a 'sustainable fund' for tillable wetlands rehabilitation that also includes rehabilitating irrigation facilities.
"We also have to do studies on tillable wetlands and by prioritization, we can fix the funding gap," he said.