Zelda Ayinkamiye, a 72 years old resident of Ndego sector in Kayonza district, she was rushed back from Tanzania two years ago and now lodged by another resident, she has to farm in order to eat, however, the dry season can’t allow her to grow things she want because the drought kills them before they grow up.
Ayinkamiye like other Ndego residents have to wait for the sector to give them food whenever the dry season pops up, but this support is not enough to live off because the food they get is far from being sufficient for a family to survive the long-lasting hunger in this area.
“They gave us food but now it’s finished, those with strength go to find jobs at the lake, even if the government gives food sometimes, it will not be able to give it always.” Said Ayinkamiye.
“We farm and it drought, our seeds die before coming up, normally cassava were persistent to the dry season but not anymore, it became exhausted.” Added Ayinkamiye.
Pierre Mbonigaba from Kiyovu cell says that the beans they planted are dead now, only two months in year can be guaranteed to farm, what they normally loose from drought are beans, maize, soya, and cassava are no longer able to root.
The issue of not growing anything in Ndego is long-lasted, the end of last year 2021, during festive season, the government gave them food, and they say that it helped them a lot, but now it’s finished and they are hungry again.
Long yearly dry season
Residents say that yearly, many seasons are dry and when it rains they try to grow beans, maize and cassava, but after that one season it’s the dry season again, which don’t leave them the possibility of saving.
Donat Bimenyimana from Ramiro village has been living here for four years now, he says that when it rains they try to grow beans, maize, sorghum and cassava; but after that season it’s over for the whole year.
Some became nomadic
Bimenyimana says that some people came to live in Ndego from Umutara, Bugesera and Nyagatare, but when they found that nothing can be grown there, they went back leaving behind the land they bought and their houses. Others just come and go on season base;
Venuste Nzabarusha, 62 years old, resident of Ndego since 1997, he says that to harvest is like a chance for them, one time they plant and the dry season comes and burns their crops, other time they harvest but that never happens twice in a year.
Nzabarusha says that many people came and went back in front of his eyes but he stayed there, he affirms that they live for God’s grace. Sometimes the government gives them food like rice, maize and hard to cook beans, but still this is not enough to survive hunger in Ndego.
Irrigation as long-term solution
Residents have common wish about what can be the solution, as they are surrounded by lakes, Ihema and others, they say that if they are given irrigation infrastructures they can be able to harvest all along the year’s seasons.
“As a long-term solution I think irrigation may do the thing, because if we can water the plants whenever we need, then we will not be afraid of the dry season any longer.” Said Nzabarusha.
“Ndego is surrounded by lakes, irrigation is possible, if the government could give the possibility of watering we can say bye to the catastrophic hunger that defines our Ndego sector.” Said Bimenyimana.
“it’s good to give us food but it doesn’t seem like a definitive solution, if the government can help us with irrigation so that we can water our crops, then we will solve this problem ourselves without burdening our country’s leaders.” Added Ayinkamiye.
The administration says to know about the issue
Despite the issue being there since a long time, the administration says to know about it and to have plans to resolve it.
The mayor of Kayonza district, John Bosco Nyemazi, who is in office for less than three months now, says that they are thinking about the irrigation technology that can help residents to water their crops.
“Having water around is one thing, having the irrigation technologies is another.” Said Nyemazi.
Nyemazi says that what’s most important is to support these residents with food in difficult times which is what they always do; they even got sweet potatoes seeds that can grow fast. And for long-term solution they have big project in partnership with Ministry of Agriculture and animal resources, by which they even started the lands consolidation.
However, the Rwanda agriculture board (RAB) says that the irrigation should be requested by farmers.
Dr. Charles Bucagu is the Deputy Director General of RAB, he says that they have money to support projects that help farmers but still farmers should be the one to demand for it.
“When water is nearby, it’s very easy, we have what we call small scale irrigation in which the government gives some subsidies and the farmer contributes. That money is decentralized at the district level. The only thing needed is the farmer to fill the form which is found at the sector’s office, it’s even digitalized but for farmers who are not used to computers, technicians at the sector’s level should help them to fill it.” Explained Dr. Bucagu.
“The farmer needs to have land certificate. After filling the form it’s sent at the district level, there’s a jointly formed team with RAB that help to make the list of needed equipment. At the district level, there’s a team called ‘District irrigation hearing committee’ led by the vice mayor in charge of economic affairs, they assess the request of famers and authorize it. They then orient the farmer to the equipment suppliers, they are everywhere. The farmer pays his contribution which is 50% and the technicians do the job and he RAB validates.” He added.
This program exists for many years now.
Dr. Bucagu says that another option is for farmers to put themselves together and request for irrigation as a group; he says that they can even give them solar powers irrigation which is cheap and easy to maintain compares to the other one which use a lot of fuel.
He says that they have been informing about these solutions, that it’s known everywhere in districts and sectors, unless maybe farmers don’t know it’s their rights and the money is there for them.