Rwangingo, a marshland of more than 900 hectares straddling the districts of Nyagatare and Gatsibo in Eastern Province, has had some of its parts submerged, ruining rice, maize, beans and soybean plantations.
This was caused by excessive rains experienced during the past few days, which caused an overflow of Rwangingo Valley Dam located in Gatsibo District, a dam that was built to irrigate the crops in the marshland during the dry season.
The flooding is also blamed on the flawed construction of the water dykes leading from the dam.
Farmers have said that they are already counting losses due to the rain-induced disaster.
Farmers have said that they are already counting losses due to the rain-induced disaster
Most crops are at a young level, only rice had reached harvesting stage.
Eugene Kalisa is the chairperson of Rwangingo Rice Growers Cooperative, which brings together 98 farmers in Nyagatare District cultivating in the marshland.
“If we are lucky, we will probably harvest 40 percent of the expected production, or even less than that,” he told The New Times.
According to Steven Dusabimana, the agronomist who offers extension services at the marshland, the farmers on Nyagatare side had planted between mid-February to mid-April, and some plants that were young will not survive.
“There is a height a plant reaches and cannot be affected by floods, but those at 20cm, 10cm and below, cannot survive. There are even some that had not yet germinated,” Dusabimana said.
The marshland on Nyagatare side is located in sectors of Karangazi and Katabagemu.
Initially, the cooperative in Nyagatare was designed to grow rice, but studies found that Rwangingo dam’s water would not be enough for rice crop in the whole marshland, deciding to grow maize, beans and soybeans as an alternative.
Most crops are at a young level, only rice had reached harvesting stage
The crops being grown by the cooperative are exclusively for seed production, which is a lucrative business as they sell their produce directly to seed companies.
But the disaster also means more losses because they had invested much more than regular farmers do.
“In seed production, we invest much money, you put in not less than a million francs per hectare before you harvest, but when the season goes well, you can harvest almost double the money you invested,” Kalisa explained.
Kalisa complains that the way this marshland is prepared is one of reasons they were affected by floods.
“We have always asked that bigger canals be dug in our farms, such that the water does not come from the marshland into our farms because our crops are actually grown on the margins of the marshland,” he said.
He added: “The water in the marshland can be controlled, and digging canals could curb the losses for us,” he pointed out adding that such works cannot be done by farmers as they are beyond their capacity.”
Théogène Manzi, the vice mayor in charge of economic affairs in Gatsibo District said that the primary reason the crops were damaged was the fact that the rains were above normal.
However, he also blamed the canals which are shallow and not well built.
“A canal’s surface should be cemented to allow the water to flow easily, but in our case, only a short distance from the dam was cemented, the remaining parts are not cemented, which damage the canals so easily, and the water has difficulties flowing,” he explained.
The issue is known and there has been plans to upgrade the canals.
On the side of Gatsibo District, Rwangingo marshland has 321 hectares located in sectors of Ngarama, Gatsibo, Gitoki and Kabarore and 260 hectares of which are rice plantations.
The rice in Gatsibo is at harvesting stage, some are harvesting, while others had their farms submerged.
Farmers try to rescue some of their rice produce perished in Rwangingo marshland in Nyagatare District.Heavy rains caused an overflow of Rwangingo Valley Dam (Courtesy)
“But we are lucky the Government introduced insurance scheme for crops. All our rice plantations were insured meaning that farmers will be compensated,” Manzi announced.
However, Manzi said only “a few farmers” have insured their maize in the marshland, and Kalisa of the cooperative in Nyagatare said their crops are not in insurance.
Rwangingo marshland was developed by the Government of Rwanda between 2015-2017 to improve livelihoods in the two district in a project that consumed up to Rwf8.5 billion.Follow DeDiosNsabimana