How floods are threatening to erode gains from multi-billion project

Farmers who had started to smile after Mugogo lowland was saved from persistent flooding are worried after the agricultural area got submerged again. Michel Nkurunziza.

Farmers who had started to celebrate the rehabilitation of Mugogo Lowland in Musanze District  which had been saved from persistent flooding are again recounting losses after the agricultural area got submerged again.

After farmers had spent seven years in losses, the Government in 2014, through the Ministry of Environment started to implement a $10 million project aimed at building adaptation to climate change effects in Nyabihu and Musanze districts.

The lowland  on 70 hectares that has previously become a lake due to persistent flooding and when the project intervened, it was restored and again used for growing maize, Irish potatoes, vegetables,  sorghum  and others.

The project has since put a smile on farmers faces as they were harvesting good yields.

However, after one year the lowland has been flooded again and farmers have since stopped the agricultural activities largely due to lack of local residents ownership and financial capacity to sustain the achievements as well as lack of regular maintenance of the infrastructure to curb the flooding.

The locals failed to de-silt 20 caves that retain flooding water from Kinoni River, rehabilitation of gullies in the watershed, maintaining the drainage networks and channels leading to the flooding of the area.

Kinoni River ends up sinking into the caves and when the caves are covered by sediments, the water floods the marshland.

Last year farmers reported good yields but the situation has since deteriorated again. File.

Farmers who talked to Business Times said that they are no longer growing crops due to the issue.

Tharcise Ntakirutimana, a farmer who used to grow maize, carrots and Irish potatoes on over two hectares told this paper on Monday that the lowland is flooded than ever.

He said that when there were paid workers who used to control the caves from being filled with sediments, there was no flooding but he said when the project closed, the locals lacked ownership and financial capacity for regular maintenance.

“No farmer is growing crops. The area is flooded than ever. Flooding previously used to submerge 70 hectares but now the affected area has reached to 0ver 80 hectares,” he said.

I have 14 pieces of land in the lowland and all of them are now underwater. The last time I harvested was in September last year. The following seasons were affected by flooding after the project to curb it closed, he explained.

He said he used to harvest over 10 tonnes of carrots, over two tonnes of maize but he is now counting losses.

“We tried to ensure ownership by contributing money to pay workers to continue regular maintenance of water channels to avoid sediments that cover the caves and cause flooding but our financial capacity failed. I had already contributed Rwf25, 000 but all of us could not afford,” the farmer explained adding that water from volcanoes also contributes to the flooding.

He said that they are awaiting government intervention.

Call for a thorough study

Serge Nsengimana the, Executive Director of The Adaptation Fund NGO Network (AFN) said that there is need for local residents and local leaders ownership to control flooding in the area even after the project closed.

The network monitors climate change adaptation projects so as to assess if the money is well spent and advocates for the vulnerable community affected by climate change.

The network monitored the implementation of the project dubbed “Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change through Community Based Adaptation”.

Nsengimana said that he also observed that after it closed, the flooding recurred due to lack of ownership in maintaining the drainage networks and channels to avoid sediments that cover the caves.

“Whenever such a big project comes, beneficiaries do not get ownership to sustain its achievements after the project closes. They still believe that the ministry will continue to do everything which leads to losing the gains made,” he said.

He said that the issue requires a thorough study to know where the water comes and where it goes to after sinking in those caves.

“The district of Musanze was supposed to be in contact with the Ministry of Finance so that every year, it gets budget and allocates it for regular maintenance to control the flooding caused by sediments that uncover the caves  that should be retaining the water,” he added.

‘Solution in offing’

Innocent Musabyimana, the coordinator of the Single Project Implementation unit at the Ministry of Environment, told Business Times that they are aware of the issue affecting Mugogo Lowland being flooded again.

“The project closed in 2018. When the project is about to close, there must be established measures for sustaining the achievements. We have agreed with the district so that it works with local residents to carry out regular de-silting of the caves to enable water penetration and avoid flooding,” he said.

He said that in partnership with Musanze District, they took measures to harvest rainwater especially on houses in Byangabo market near the lowland to avoid water that increases flooding.

“There is also, a budget that has to be transferred to the district through national budget to ensure permanent maintenance of Mugogo Lowland to avoid further flooding and help farmers to grow their crops again,” he said.

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