Bugesera farmers receive govt bailout after devastating floods

In August 2018, the farmers, with the help from Government, managed to reclaim the flooded marshland and plant rice which gave yield between January and February this year.
Rice marshlands are most affected by inundation. Michel Nkurunziza.

Farmers grouped under CORIMARU – a cooperative of rice growers in Rurambi Marshland in Bugesera District—whose rice plantations were completely destroyed by heavy floods have been able to salvage something thanks to government support.

The government support to farmers came in the form of fertilisers and electricity subsidies aimed at powering irrigation projects Athanase Murenzi, the President of cooperative said.

The devastating floods of April and May 2018 destroyed 558 hectares, leaving farmers with slim prospects of harvesting.

The cooperative consists of 1,801 farmers. They had planted rice in February 2018, and were expecting to harvest between May and June.

Some farmers like Murenzi were left dismayed because the marshland was their source of livelihood.

In August last year, the farmers, with the help from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, managed to reclaim the flooded marshland and plant rice which gave yield between January and February this year.

“The government gave us about 100 tonnes of chemical fertilisers, and pesticides,” Murenzi said, adding that they harvested some 2,400 tonnes of rice from over 500 hectares.

“The government also paid about Rw24 million for the energy we used to carry out do irrigation,” he added.

Before the floods, the farmers had borrowed Rwf173 million from financial institutions in addition to Rwf50 million credit from Mayange Rice – a rice processing factory located in Mayange Sector of Bugesera.

The cooperative also took over Rwf105 million from its coffers.

They used all that money to carry out farming activities and help farmers buy fertilisers, seeds as well pesticides to improve farm produce. But, that investment was ruined by the downpours.

On May 11, 2018, Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, promised assistance to the farmers, such as agricultural inputs for them to carry on with their farming business and mediating with financial instructions that lent to them so that they ease the method of loan repayment.

“Thanks to government’s negotiations with financial institutions, we have paid only half of the loan, and we will pay the remaining part when we get another harvest,” Murenzi said.

However, the water dyke that was built to prevent the overflow of River Akagera into the marshland fell short of capacity to retain the river’s surging water levels as result of heavy rain.

Therefore, the farmers request that the dyke be raised in order to contain flooding. Murenzi expressed concern that coming May might be a period of heavy rains similar to last year’s, which causes worry.

Vice Mayor for Finance and Economic Development in Bugesera District, Angelique Umwali, said that institutions from the central government and district have partnered to support the affected farmers.

She said they are engaged in constructing the dyke so that they can completely avert the problem.

“But, because the cost is high, immediate action was to repair the damaged parts of the dyke. The dyke will be elevated in the next fiscal year so that there is assurance that it will stop water flooding onto farmers’ fields which cause damages to them,” he said.