Government has committed to supporting farmers who were evicted from Rweru wetland in Bugesera District, as part of ongoing efforts to protect the marshland from further degradation.
The pledge was made on Saturday by the Minister for Natural Resources, Dr Vincent Biruta, during an event to mark the World Wetlands Day.
During the event, marked by a tour of the Rweru wetland to raise awareness of the marshland, Biruta said the government will help farmers venture into other income-generating activities through the different cooperatives they have created.
There was also community work, Umuganda, which saw the planting of trees on the area covering the buffer on the marshland.
“To prevent agricultural activities that dry up the marshland, trees were planted on the buffer zone but also farmers who were expropriated from the marshland got paid work during the rehabilitation to sustain their welfare and we shall continue offering them support,” Biruta said.
Rehabilitating Rweru wetland was initiated in 2013. The Lake along the wetland was also saved from water hyacinth. Members of four farmers’ cooperatives in the area also trained in integrated pest management techniques.
Dr Rose Mukankomeje, Director General of Rema, said Rwf109 million has been reserved to support these farmers through their cooperatives under the framework of Lake Victoria Environment Management Project Phase 2 (LVEMP2)
It operates in five countries namely; Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.
“We wish they also allow us to plant fruit trees on the buffer zone so that we are able to produce for export as well as feed our children,” said Jean D’amascene Karasira, one of the farmers.
Other farmers say they entirely depended on tilling the marshland, calling for more support to enable them fend for their families.
“We entirely depended on this wetland for farming,” said Emmanuel Mvukiyehe, another farmer.
He adds that he got a job as the rehabilitation project started and joined Sacco bank that facilitates him to get soft loans.
Biruta said Rweru wetland is a potential reservoir of water for lakes Mugesera, Sake, Akagera, and Nyabarongo River in Eastern Province that serve as tourist attractions.