Drought: How irrigation tech saved Nyagatare farmers

An irrigation facility stands tall above crops in Matimba and Musheri sectors of Nyagatare District, moving forth and back to water crops especially during drought in this Eastern Province’s drought prone area.
A farmer irrigates her gardens in Eastern region. / File
A farmer irrigates her gardens in Eastern region. / File

An irrigation facility stands tall above crops in Matimba and Musheri sectors of Nyagatare District, moving forth and back to water crops especially during drought in this Eastern Province’s drought prone area.

The wheeled irrigation system effectively splashes water onto crops, enabling farmers to be resilient to drought which had adversely affected their yields before its establishment.

 

The water used is pumped from the nearby Muvumba River.

 

The technology benefits over 1,000 farmers grouped in a cooperative growing crops on some 900 hectares in Matimba and Musheri.

 

In this agriculture season C (running from June through September), which is normally a dry spell, the beneficiary farmers’ crops including tomatoes and beans are thriving and flourishing with farmers full of hope for good harvest.

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Irrigation Engineer at Matimba-Musheri Irrigation Schembe, Nicolas Ngabonziza, explaining to journalists how the automated irrigation system works. / Emmanuel Ntirenganya

The Muvumba Valley irrigation scheme consists of four types of irrigation namely center pivot irrigation, drip irrigation, sprinklers and graviton; with all the systems being set up to manage the drought issues affecting the area, according to information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI).

“Before this irrigation system, I could not get more than 600 kilogrammes of maize produce per hectare. But, thanks to this scheme, I harvest at least five tonnes (5,000 kilogrammes),” says Eduard Musemakweli, a farmer.

Musemakweli is also the President of water users’ association for some 320 farmers benefiting from this irrigation scheme on Kagitumba zone in Matimba Sector.

Praising the irrigation scheme and government which enabled it, while answering journalists’ questions on its significance in the face of drought, Musemakweli said “it is a blessing we do not suffer from dry spells, we have permanent rain. You have seen it; that is rain indeed.

“We will not encounter any losses because we have our crops irrigated, and we get water whenever we need it,” Musemakweli said.

Talking about the benefits from the scheme, he said that school fees for children is assured up to university, community health insurance, and basic needs are also met, and they  are also building decent homes.

Farmers contribute for the water they use to ensure its sustainability. The contribution varies from crop to crop, whereby for instance, Rwf17,000 is charged for the cultivation of maize on one hectare per season, while it is Rwf50,000 for tomato farming.

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Eduard Musemakweli, a Nyagatare farmer, speaking to journalists in Kagitumba Cell near Muvumba River in Nyagatare Distric near Rwanda and Uganda border. / Emmanuel Ntirenganya

Paul Rusingizandekwe, a farmer in Kagitumba Cell in Matimba Sector said the technology is less expensive.

“I contribute Rwf50,000 per hectare to irrigate my tomato plantation, while I would spend about Rwf200,000 when I use a diesel or petrol powered engine.”

Isaac Mugenzi, president of farmers’ cooperative in Muvumba Valley, consisting of 1,083 members of whom 364 are women, said that that the irrigation scheme has cushioned farmers against climate change shocks.

“When dry spells set in, we start irrigating our crop making it stand against drought effects, which ensures our produce,” he said.

The Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana, said that farmers should make the most of irrigation schemes by growing high value crops such as green beans and tomatoes, which can earn them more revenues because irrigation is often expensive.

Muvumba valley, MINAGRI information shows, was rehabilitated by Government Fund Irrigation (GFI) which was working under MINAGRI’s Irrigation and Mechanization task force. The rehabilitation of this valley cost around Rwf5 billion.

Figures from RAB show that about 45,000 hectares of arable land are irrigated, while the target is to irrigate 100,000 hectares by 2020. The estimated cultivable land that can be irrigated countrywide is 600,000 hectares.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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