Residents of Ruhondo and Burera Lake Islands have welcomed government’s plan to relocate them.
Up to 152 households from island areas of Ruhondo and Burera lakes will be relocated as part government’s efforts to ensure easy access to health, education and other facilities. There are seven Islands in Lake Ruhondo, namely Ubuhenesha, Abirihira, Abazigaba, Mwegerera, Akampyisi, Inyagasozi and Akanyirantoki, while those in Burera Lake include Birwa I, Birwa II and Bushongo.
The intention is to relocate all islanders but the site under construction will host 102 families of the families from Ruhondo pending construction for more families to be relocated.
The families will be resettled in ‘model villages’ in Gashaki sector, Musanze District, according to the Minister for Natural Resources, Dr Vincent Biruta.
While touring the resettlement site on Wednesday, Biruta said the transfer will help the affected families to fully benefit from government development programmes.
Officials said the resettlement will kick off with families living on Ruhondo Lake Island after the construction of their houses by July this year.
The families will receive a cow each, biogas facility and will be helped to form cooperatives to create off farm jobs which will boost their living conditions, according to officials.
Minister Biruta urged the residents to preserve the lake and its environs by avoiding human activities such as farming on its banks.
“Once relocated to the model villages, you will have access to clean water and electricity, health facilities and markets. “Your children will go to school with ease, you will not need to look for firewood because you will be using biogas for cooking,” he assured the residents.
Over Rwf2 billion has been earmarked for the resettlement exercise, setting up biogas plants, purchasing cattle and other basics.
The project, being implemented by Rwanda Environment Management (REMA), was funded by UNDP, the National Environmental Fund (FONERWA) and Sweden International Development Agency (SIDA), according to officials.
Burera and Ruhondo lakes are located in Burera and part of Musanze districts Northern Province.
Residents were excited at the news, saying they were living in isolation.
Vedaste Nkurikiyimana said they were facing challenges such as lack of access to clean water, health centres and schools on the islands.
“Life was hard with no markets to sell our produce and, no schools,” he said.
“It was also difficult to get our wives to health centres in case of labour or whenever one fell sick.” he added.
Leonille Nyirarukundo, a student from one of the Islands, said it was a challenge for them to go to school as boats were not always readily available to transport them across Lake Ruhondo.
“We are happy that we will relocate soon, it has always been challenging for us to go to school.
“I hope our academic performance will improve and the rate at which students drop out of school reduces,” she said.
Local leaders also welcomed the relocation, saying the residents faced many risks.