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RAB on the spot over Rwf2 billion dormant irrigation projects

Farmers across the country, especially in the Eastern Province that is prone to dry spells continue to decry the lack of access to irrigation facilities despite many lakes in the province.

Daniel Ndaberetse, one of the farmers in Bugesera District, who has a farm along Lake Cyohoha said that he has been struggling to irrigate his one-hectare of land due to the lack of irrigation facilities.

 

“I have over one hectare of tillable land but I was only tilling a half of it due to lack of irrigation facilities,” he said.

 

He said that only a fraction of the land near the lake was productive because he can irrigate it using petrol powered pumps.

 

Uzziel Sibomana, another farmer said that he incurred huge losses after drought devastated his crops last year because there are no irrigation facilities.

He said he is used to growing maize and beans for only two seasons per year out of three seasons of the year due to lack of irrigation facilities.

He said that where he was expecting to harvest one tonne of beans, he only harvested 100 kilogrammes.

Rwf2.2 billion dormant irrigation projects

The farmers are one of thousands of farmers that are still counting losses due to dry spells as irrigation is carried out on a small space across the country while others are victims of dormant irrigation projects that should have served them.

The Auditor-General report for 2018/19 indicates that Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) conducted various feasibility studies for irrigation areas and rehabilitation or development of marshlands including dams, and other irrigation facilities but were not implemented leading farmers to continue counting losses.

The auditors identified feasibility studies that have been conducted in 1 to 3 years ago at costs of Rwf2.2 billion whose projects were not subsequently implemented.

The report says that there is no roadmap to implement the related projects yet the government spent significant funds on feasibility studies.

Bugesera district is one of the districts suffering from dry spells leaving farmers in losses despite many lakes in the area.

No irrigation despite having lakes

Angelique Umwali, the Vice Mayor in charge of economic development in Bugesera district said that while there are projects for irrigation, it is still a drop in the sea.

“This district is usually affected by drought and farmers are the most hit. Irrigation infrastructure is key in developing our people and saving for their bright future. However, even though our district has so many lakes, many farmers are not irrigation. The district has only 2,000 hectares of land that is irrigated but this is a drop in the sea. We continue to mobilize resources to increase irrigated land,” she said.

When asked for a comment, Charles Bucagu, the Deputy Director-General of Agriculture Research and Technology Transfer at RAB replied that he first needs to know details about the Rwf2.2 billion irrigation feasibility studies.

Currently, only an estimated 60,000 hectares are under irrigation out of the national irrigation potential of 600,000 hectares.

The country targets to have at least 102,000 hectares under irrigation by 2024 which would, among other things, improve food security and productivity.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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