About eight months have elapsed since Adolphe Ngirunkunda, 32, started earning Rwf25,000 per week from sales of vegetables that he grows during the dry season in a farm which he could previously not cultivate as he had no irrigation system.
“I had grown bell pepper and I harvested about five sacks (of 50 kilogrammes each) per week, from which I get about Rwf25,000 per week thanks to the hillside irrigation project which enabled us to carry out farming during dry spell,” said the resident of Rulindo District.
The farmer, who is one of the beneficiaries of Muyanza Hillside Irrigation scheme, was speaking on Tuesday during the launch of the farming season A of 2019 which will run from this September until January 2019.
The scheme has capacity to irrigate 1,100 hectares of crop farms (three sectors of Buyoga, Burega and Ntarabana sectors) throughout the year, which will benefit all categories of farmers, including commercial, medium and small scale, according to the project managers.
The project was funded by the World Bank Group under the Land Husbandry Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation (LWH) at a tune of $16.5 million (about Rwf14 billion).
The dam that serves as a reservoir is 26 metres deep and has the capacity to store 2.4 million cubic metres of water. It is considered the highest and the largest earth fill in the agriculture sector in Rwanda.
“Before the irrigation scheme, I used to harvest about two sacks (each weighing 100 kilogrammes) of maize but today I harvest about seven sacks,” said 37-year-old Jean Damascene Uwimpaye, another beneficiary of the scheme
As more farmers increasingly have access to water all year long, the price of a bunch of vegetables has fallen to Rwf50 from Rwf200, said Claudine Dusabemariya, a mother of one.
“With the availability of vegetables, our children are getting nutritious food at low cost,” she said.
Speaking at the event in Rulindo, the State Minister in charge of Agriculture, Fulgence Nsengiyumva, said that the hillside irrigation project uses pipes or other means to pump water to the upland farms in order to avoid crop losses induced by climate change such as drought.
“We have committed to combatting climate change effects by using water to irrigate crops during the dry season so we are able to harvest with or without rainfall,” he said.
Rwanda has about 1.4 million hectares of farmland that it cultivates per year.
About 860,000 hectares will be used for growing various crops in this autumn which started in September running through January 2019.
The minister said that, currently, only about 50,000 hectares are irrigated, while under the Fourth Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation, Rwanda targets to irrigate crops on at least 102,000 hectares by 2024.
Rulindo Vice Mayor in charge of Economic Development, Prosper Mulindwa, said the area that benefited from the project had been experiencing inadequate rainfall.
“With support from this project, we will move from growing crops twice a year to four times a year because we will focus on crops that take little time to give yields and more income, such as vegetables,” Mulindwa said.
“This irrigation scheme will reduce food insecurity and eradicate hunger in this area, but also increase income for Rulindo farmers,” he said.
The crops, he said, include vegetables and spices such as onions and chilli pepper, fruits and flowers.