January downpour ravages over 1,300 tonnes of rice in Bugesera

When the rains showered in different parts of the country at the beginning of the year, many considered it blessings that came with the New Year.

When the rains showered in different parts of the country at the beginning of the year, many considered it blessings that came with the New Year.

This was, however, not the feeling among the residents of Mwogo Sector in Bugesera District who had relied on sunshine to be able to harvest their rice that was ripe.

Residents say that on New Year’s Eve it rained with hailstones and many of fragile crops like rice were destroyed and, up to today, they have not had enough sunshine to dry their remaining harvest.

Farmers of Rurambi marshland rice growers’ cooperative (CORIMARU) say they had ripe golden rice in their fields and over 200 hectares were totally devastated by hailstone, with about 1300 tonnes of rice getting destroyed.

The cooperative’s president, Anastase Murenzi, said that besides the hailstones that come with the rain, their ground for drying has remained flooded for days due to the non-stop rain, making their harvest prone to germination.

“Since the New Year’s Eve, we have only had two sunny days. We have no place to set up our germinating harvest to dry because even the ground is flooded,” says Murenzi.

According to Nobert Sendege, the head of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) in Eastern Province, they have deployed several solar bubble dryers but these have not been so effective because there is very limited sunshine for their effectiveness.

“We’re working closely with the cooperative and expect the harvest will get dry in the next few days,” he said.

“Normally, our drying ground would be flooded but that was before harvest. We never experienced rains during harvest period and so had no reason to extend the drainage system to the drying ground,” said Murenzi.

The cooperative members say this is a major blow because they are servicing a loan.

However, local authorities say they quickly stepped it to mediate negotiations with the bank to extend the period within which the cooperative was supposed to pay back because of the losses incurred.

According to Eric Ruzindaza, Bugesera District vice mayor for economic affairs, they have talked to the bank and they are willing to be lenient.

With over 1,800 farmers, CORIMARU started operations in 2013 and they grow rice on over 650 hectares of Rurambi Marshland, producing over 3,000 tonnes of rice a season.

Anthony Twahirwa, the Division Manager of Weather/ Climate services at Rwanda Meteorology Agency, says the abnormal rains are expected to stop across the country over the coming weekend.

“There is a cyclone wind that blew from Madagascar into the Congo and then spreading to Rwanda. The cyclone died out but left much humidity in space which has led to continuous rains,” said Twahirwa.

Minagri’s response

The Director General of Agriculture Development at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), Dr Charles Murekezi, called upon farmers to always be equipped for climate change.

“So far, the most secure farmers are those who have used machines to harvest rice ahead of the rains,” said Dr Murekezi.

He added that crop insurance too is needed because of uncertain changes in climate.

Murenzi acknowledged that, “if we had a machine, we would have harvested so early and the rains wouldn’t have found our crops in the field but we can’t buy all the machines all at once. We will secure one by one”.

Farmers also say that insurance companies have been reluctant to come up with specific policies for farmers.