Farmers in Eastern Province have expressed worry over the current low rains this season, saying the situation is threatening crop production. Most of the affected farmers are from Nyagatare, Kayonza, Kirehe and Bugesera districts, according to Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).
RAB says farmers in 17 sectors, including Karangazi, Nyagatare, Rukomo and Katabagemu (Nyagatare district); Rwinkwavu, Ndego, Kabare, Murundi, Mwili and Rukara in Kayonza, as well as Mpanga, Kigarama and Nyamugali sectors in Kirehe District, and Rweru, Rilima, Gashora and Shara in Bugesera were experiencing low rainfall levels.
Over 85 per cent of the residents in the province depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
There are 95 sectors in the province. Residents fear the situation could cause food scarcity early next year even after the January - February harvest season. The dry spell has also affected livestock farmers, and pushed up retail milk prices.
Norbert Sendege, the RAB provincial head, said the board was aware of the challenge of inadequate rains in 13 sectors of the province, adding that they are encouraging farmers near water bodies to embrace irrigation.
“RAB extension workers are already helping some of the affected farmers to irrigate their crops, and the situation is not alarming,” said Sendege.
However, he added that there were areas across the province, which have received ample rains and “will get higher-than-expected yields” to fill any shortfalls that may occur.
“Therefore, there is no cause for alarm yet…we don’t anticipate any produce or milk shortages in the province,” Sendege assured the residents.
Raphael Muganga, a resident of Nyirangegene trading centre, Karangazi Sector in Nyagatare District, said a litre of milk currently costs Rwf300, higher than Rwf100 previously.
He added that the area used to experience good rains around this time of the year, saying the low levels of rainfall have affected pastures and reduced milk production.
“Normally, we experience high prices of foodstuffs around this time of the year, but milk had always been in plenty.
“This is, however, not the case this year because of low rainfall,” said Muganga.
Muganga added that foodstuff prices could go up soon “because crop production in the area is not likely to be enough”.
Ignace Nteziryayo, from Kiyanzi sector in Kirehe District, said some gardens have already started drying up as the area received scanty rainfall. The farmer is worried about where he will get money to send his children back to school next year, saying he is spending a lot buying foodstuffs.
He said a 15-kilogramme bunch of bananas now costs Rwf6,000 at Nyamugali, while that of beans is at Rwf700.
The Southern Province has not received any rains in past three weeks, according to RAB. Aime Parfait Gasana, the head of RAB in Southern Province, said extension workers were supporting farmers to irrigate their crops “as they wait for the rains”. “We have seen less rains for the last few weeks, especially in Nyamiyaga sector, Kamonyi District,” said said. RAB said it has not got any reports that could compromise projected harvests in Northern and Western provinces.