Heavy rains commonly known as El-Nino have started. According to weather experts they are expected to be disastrous in East Africa with Uganda and Kenya already facing effects of the El-Nino rains.
Already the hilly areas of western Rwanda have been affected. Reports show that in Rubavu district, residents have been hit hard by heavy rains that destroyed 53 houses and 257 hectares of crops.
The resulting situation is of deterioration in their living conditions, loss of farms and property while others are forced to relocate due to heavy flooding.
A statement from the Inter Governmental Authority on Development-IGAD at the Climate Prediction and Application Centre indicates that the El-Nino season is yet to come in a two month period.
El-Nino rains are periodic and occur due to strange warming of the surface waters of the eastern Equatorial Pacific Ocean that disrupts weather patterns. This often occurs irregularly between a period of 2-7 years.
Remy Norbert Duhuze, acting Director of Environmental Regulation and Pollution Control Unit at Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), said that protection measures have been taken before the El-Nino rains begin.
“Much has been done to ensure that people are safe in relation to environmental changes against disasters,” he explained.
“We are working closely with local authorities in relocating people from areas which can easily be affected by heavy rains, in terms of financing the programme,” Duhuze said.
REMA has contributed Rwf 48 million into the project of relocating about 100 families especially in Nyabihu district, Western Province.
He said that people settled in areas easily affected by running water, are advised to resort to modern agricultural methods.
“People are encouraged to terrace and mulch the land to suppress the rate of soil erosion. They need to plant trees that act as windbreakers,” Duhuze said.
Although, it is projected that this year’s El-Nino will not be as heavy as the previous years, the responsible authorities are stepping ahead and are planning to meet humanitarian agencies to come up with precautionary measures and a rescue plan for those affected.
Damas Gatare, Head of the preparedness and management unit in the Ministry of Internal Security, said a lot is being done to ensure that El-Nino rains find people prepared.
“We are sensitizing the public about the El-Nino rains and what to do during this period. We also plan to use Umuganda; the monthly community work to educate the public,” Gatare said.
He explained that most government institutions are taking part in the fight to make sure that the El-Nino period does not leave communities in permanent damage.
He assured the public that the metrological department under the Rwanda Bureau of Statistics (RBS) is working closely with IGAD to ensure that Rwanda is at the right stage of protecting people against the effects of the heavy rains.
“There is no need for alarm given the measures in place,” Gatera assured.
However, despite all the measures in place many are not content due to previous experiences that affected them.
One of the most affected areas in Kigali is the Kimcanga slum that is located in a valley. The area is occupied by hundreds of families living in weak semi-detached houses.
They run retail shops, restaurants and small market business which are the main economic activity in the area.
Rose Umutoni is a resident of Kimcanga who runs a small shop in the area. She says that the rainy season has always been a big problem even for businesses in the area.
“When it rains heavily, the houses flood and gives us a hard time. Water fills our shops and destroys our goods especially in the market area” Umutoni said.
Taking caution, Umutoni said residents decided to dig trenches for a drainage system but with little success.
“Although we have tried to make some trenches to ensure easy flow of water, the trenches are blocked and everywhere floods,” she said.
Challenges like these, according to Gatera have pushed the government to contract a World renowned consultancy firm, to formulate the country’s National Disaster Management plan.
At the moment, a sensitization campaign under the Ministry of Agriculture has given out pamphlets encouraging people to store enough food so as to overcome shortage.
The Climate Prediction and Application Centre have also embarked on regional workshops to spread diverse strategies of surviving the El-Nino period.
These are the measures that Rwanda is using to protect its people from the effects of El-Nino rains.