Maize farmers in Kirehe District are anticipating low output due to delayed planting that has been occasioned by prolonged drought.
With the district also short of irrigation schemes, farmers say, the delayed rainfall could shrink their crop yields, which could cause food shortage and hurt their earning.
Unlike other districts in Eastern Province, which are witnessing some rainfall, Kirehe is still facing hot weather conditions.
Isaïe Hakizimana, the Head of COACMU, a farmers’ cooperative that groups together 730 members in Musaza Sector, said their worries are compounded by existing irrigation systems, which are too small to cover the 730 hectares on which they grow beans and maize.
“We are still waiting for the rainfall, if it does not rain before November 5, we will definitely count losses,” Hakizimana said.
In Rwanda, rainfall peaks in March, April, and May and then in September, October, November and December.
It has not been the case this season, which has farmers concerned.
Hakizimana is also frustrated by “misleading” forecasts from Rwanda Meteorology Agency, which he said has wrongly predicated that there would be enough rains this month.
“The sunshine has made the soil nothing but dry and hot,” he added.
According to Hakizimana, the farmers have already prepared their gardens for planting but the rain shortage has caused delays in planting.
Last season, the farmers produced three tonnes of maize per hectare.
“Based on our observation, chances for us to produce the same quantities are slim,” Hakizimana stated.
Their farmlands border River Akagera, which floods during heavy rains and damages crops.
By this time farmers are supposed to have planted their fields but can’t do so because they are not sure whether it will rain soon.
The Kirehe District Mayor, Gerald Muzungu, last week called on farmers to utilise the Nkunganire programme, which facilitates them to acquire irrigation equipment in instalments and at a subsidised cost.
He added that the Government is in the process of setting up a $120 million irrigation project as a long term solution to help farmers navigate through the unpredictable weather patterns.
The project, which is being is expected to cover 5,000 to 7,000 hectares, is one of the measures that are being pursued by government to deal with drought, including encouraging agroforestry among others.
The irrigation project is expected to be operational within three years, the mayor said.
Farmers in Nasho, Mahama, Mpanga and Nyamugali are the most affected by extreme weather conditions.
Thierry Mugiraneza, the Director of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) at Ngoma Station, encouraged farmers to pull resources together and buy irrigation equipment.
“They should combine forces to buy it, but anyone who has the capacity can buy it on their own; with the Nkunganire programme, a small machine can be bought at Rwf190,000, because government pays 50 per cent for them and the farmer pays the rest.”