Marie Rose Mukashyaka, a resident of Rubuye village, Kirehe District in Eastern province says of late, she can’t recall the last time her children went hungry for days. She narrates that before, this was a norm. As a widow, it was hard to cater to her seven children who were solely depending on her. “I didn’t have any source of income whatsoever; I was depending on substance farming. We were affected by long droughts and heavy rains, making us yield fewer crops that couldn’t sustain us even for a season,” she says. This took a toll on her children; almost half of them were malnourished, affecting not only their health but also their education as they couldn’t manage to attend classes on a daily basis with empty stomachs. 20-year-old Uwimana Ikijije from the same area says growing up, it was challenging for her parents to provide basic needs for them, especially for the girls because they hardly earned a living. “My parents were depending on farming, the little yields they get, they will be forced to sell part of it to buy some other basic needs. “I don’t remember ever using sanitary towels; we were forced to switch to another alternative which was using clothes. Because of this, it was hard to maintain hygiene, which made me drop out of school due to challenges that came with the entire situation,” she says. Benjamin Ntaganira, a father of four says during drought and rainy seasons, because there was nothing to consume, it was quite normal to experience conflicts among couples. He says that this is because both partners were expecting each other to look for a source of income, which resulted into chaos, making the environment unconducive for their young ones, and even themselves as parents. Changing lives The residents of this area are now improving their lives, thanks to Adapting to Climate Change in Lake Victoria Basin (ACC-LVB) project. Through the initiative, hairdressing and tailoring facilities were among the alternative sources of income established for the vulnerable people that are mainly widows, young mothers, and youth, who didn’t have a source of livelihood, forcing them to farming in Akagera wetlands. According to officials, this made them more vulnerable. Tailoring and hairdressing were, therefore, viable alternative livelihood options that are not directly impacted by changes in weather or climate conditions. Ikijije was among those that took advantage of the wetland during dry seasons to cultivate maize and beans, something that wouldn’t last them for three months because of the fewer yields they used to get. “As a school dropout, I am glad to be a beneficiary of the tailoring program as it has ensured that I earn a living, which is sustainable. From the savings, I anticipate using it to better my life in the future as a young person,” she says. Mukashyaka says using machines, she makes up to 10 school uniforms a day and sells them for at least Rwf5, 000 each, which has seen her cash flow remain constant and efficient, ensuring she puts food on the table for her kids. “The activities have helped us as a community to improve our lives given that women and children were the most affected. There is also peace and a sense of respect among couples,” says Ntaganira. At the moment, a total of 40 residents have benefited from the initiative, whereby 23 of them are women and 17 are men. A relief to the ecosystem The Eastern part of Rwanda is known for its prolonged droughts, heavy rains, and terrains, putting the residents at risk of being extensively affected by droughts and floods respectively. During seasons of heavy rains the farms in the wetlands were extensively damaged by floods leading to losses, while in dry seasons, residents farming in the wetlands would continue to extend their farms deep into the wetlands leading to further degradation of the environment. Peter Kamau, technical advisor for ACC-LVB says residents, especially the vulnerable group have been since forced to drain the Akagera wetland in order to create farming land, causing massive destruction of the ecosystem that has devastating impacts on its structure and functioning. He points out that the Eastern part of Rwanda is a very vulnerable hotspot area that is affected by droughts during heavy rains and that the destruction of wetlands was causing significant erosion and destruction of that ecosystem (the source of Akagera River). “The beneficiaries have now stopped farming in the wetlands as they are now fully engaged in these livelihood activities, the group is earning a living as they are able to sell clothes as well as supply them to local schools. “This is one ways the community overcomes the problem of climate change which has been affecting the area for a long time,” he adds.