Bugesera District is endowed with lakes and rivers, boasting a total of nine lakes and three rivers, to be specific. According to officials, the district also has the highest amount of marshlands in the country. Despite this, only 10 per cent of Bugesera’s marshland area has been developed, indicating untapped potential for the district. “We have 21,000 hectares of wetlands in Bugesera, of which only 2,000 are conserved. There are others that are impossible to conserve; we have at least 17,000 hectares ready to be conserved if we get the investment. It is essential to prioritise the conservation and restoration of these wetlands to ensure the long-term sustainability of the livelihoods of our residents,” said Richard Mutabazi, Bugesera District’s mayor. ALSO READ: Over 40% of Rwanda’s wetlands ‘lost their pristine nature’ According to Mutabazi, wetlands provide numerous benefits, such as water purification, flood control, and a habitat for various wildlife species. They also play a significant role in supporting the local economy through activities like fishing and agriculture; hence, officials in the district call for investments in conserving the abundant wetlands and marshlands available. 45-year-old Dismas Nsabimana, a resident in the Rilima sector, said the underdevelopment of the marshlands has limited their agricultural practices because they are unable to fully take advantage of the fertile soil and water resources in the marshlands. He said, “Wetlands can solve the problem of food insecurity in our area. Many farmers want to irrigate, including me, but the water sources in our wetland are not developed to support irrigation. Most of the wetlands are not exploited as they should be.” ALSO READ: Minister Mujawamariya sends warning to wetland encroachers The area of developed marshlands in the district is approximately 2,000 hectares, which accounts for a small portion of the total available land area of 21,000 hectares. “During rainy seasons, marshlands stretch their boundaries and flood nearby gardens, yet most farmers rely on agriculture. Here in Rurambi marshland, it is common; there were times when our rice plantations were completely destroyed by heavy floods. Officials should do something about developing marshlands in our area,” said Justin Mboneko. The district benefits from abundant water resources, such as the Akagera River and various lakes, which can be utilised for irrigation purposes. to The New Times about the way forward regarding the possibility of tapping into the potential of marshlands, Jerome Hitayezu, Head of the Irrigation Department at the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), said, “Presently, there are plans underway to further develop an additional 8,000 hectares of marshlands in Bugesera, as well as implement irrigation development as a component of the Nyabarongo II Project. The development of the 8,000 entities primarily relies on financial support from the Rwandan government.” ALSO READ: What is the value of Rwanda’s protected wetlands? According to Hitayezu, the expansion of marshland development in Bugesera District will provide numerous benefits to the local community and the agricultural sector. Among them, the proposed irrigation capacity will allow farmers to grow crops throughout the year, reducing dependence on rainfall, which is implemented as a component of the Nyabarongo II Project that will serve different areas in Bugesera. Rwanda has about 1,000 marshlands covering 10.6 per cent of the country’s surface area as per the 2017 Prime Minister’s Order, which lists the number of swamps, their characteristics and boundaries, and determining modalities of their use, development, and management. Currently, the level of pressure from threats to the biodiversity of the wetlands is at 65 per cent, while the level of action to respond to the threats is only at 35 per cent, according to a survey from the Rwanda Water Resources Board.