In far-away Madrid, Spain, a United Nations forum is in discussions on how best to combat desertification. It is not surprising that calls have been made to Members of Parliament in African countries to play a very active role using their powerful legislative clout.
Back home in Rwanda, it might not be the approach of the desert that is most worrying – yet. But drought is. Though the news today is about rains and floods killing our people, drought and famine bring such suffering in equal measure.
At one point not so long ago, the fate of the civilized world rested on the chance of clouds and rain. As famine approached Egypt, millions were expected to lose livelihoods and lives. A people already dependent on but just a river in a vast desert would be swallowed up by dryness and hunger. It was only after the Biblical Joseph forewarned the Pharaoh of how to use the country’s current prosperity to protect against its downfall that disaster was diverted.
It is a natural scientific phenomenon. From the hibernation of bears to the conserving of peanuts by squirrels, all of life protects against both the inevitable and unknown by preparing in advance.
For Rwanda, like Egypt, irrigation and science will be our biggest challenge and best friend.
Two very potent rainy seasons stimulate this country, and while two long dry seasons dominate the interim. Like the Pharaoh after Joseph’s dream, we can use what we have and know to prepare for what is still unforeseen.
It will ultimately be a matter of science, a matter of maximising potential and then fulfilling it. While much can be gained from regional cooperation and international politicking, the real-world solutions come with the best physical and scientific means. Yielding the best crop comes from the best seed, planted in the well-filtered and distributed water from the most-efficient and modern canals.
Planning and efficiency is also important. Using solely the water necessary in times of drought, as well as conserving reservoirs for times of need are paramount.
Hoping for the best and preparing for the worst has been the maxim of an administration that so far has led Rwanda to great glories. All Rwandans, especially drought-prone areas like Umutara, should note this carefully.