When Mugogo lowland became like a lake due to persistent flooding, farmers in Musanze district thought they could no longer enjoy maize, Irish potatoes, vegetables and sorghum they used to harvest in that area.
Mugogo lowland, which is an agricultural area in Busogo sector of Musanze district, is downstream part of Kinoni river watershed stretching from Nyabihu district in its upstream.
It contains about 20 caves, drained by Kinoni River and runoff from surrounding uplands which, over time deposited layers of sediments from upstream, triggering prolonged flooding with associated catastrophes such as; loss of lives, displacement of people, destruction of infrastructure, crops and upsetting ecosystems.
The major causes of flooding and landslides include poor agricultural practices, poor soil and water conservation practices combined with heavy rains, steep hills and fragile soil which affected about 430 families who used to live in the lowland.
However today as farmers growing about 70 hectares of maize and sorghum in the low land, are upbeat following the adaptation project dubbed “Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change Through Community Based Adaptation (RV3CBA project)” in Nyabihu and Musanze districts.
The four-year ( 2014-2018) project being implemented at a cost of Rwf7 billion was launched to increasing adaptive capacity of natural systems and rural communities to climate change impacts in the affected areas and is being executed by the Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority (RWFA).
The project is benefiting residents of Busogo sector of Musanze district where Mugogo lowland is located and other seven sectors of Nyabihu district namely; Jenda, Jomba, Karago, Kintobo, Mukamira, Rurembo and Rambura.
Measures to build adaption in the agricultural Mugogo low land included de-silting the caves, rehabilitation of gullies in the watershed, rehabilitation of waterways, digging terraces and afforestation starting from the upstream of Kinoni river, rehabilitating drainage networks and channels , establishing buffer zones and checking dams along Kinoni river tributaries, among others.
Such practices have raised hope of farmers and other residents that were hitherto vulnerable to the disasters.
“For over four years we could neither till nor harvest from our land. The lowland had become soggy and flooded that residents had brought in boats to be able to move from Byangabo market center in Musanze district to Kintobo sector in Nyabihu district, including students going to school. Some people drowned,” recounts Jeannette Mukeshimana who had a plot of land and a house which were swept away by the floods.
She said they would need to relocate but had no financial capacity and always worried they could be submerged.
“Now that we were relocated and then helped to make our lowland arable again, we hope no hunger will hit us. We need to play our role in sustaining the infrastructure containing the flooding and sediments that trigger the disasters,” she adds.
Leonie Musanabageni, another farmer with eight children said they were starving and used to survive on doing only casual work.
“We are happy to till our land again. We only depend on this agricultural low land because even the hillside crops used to be affected by erosion and landslides. I can harvest between over 500 kg of maize on my piece of land,” she said.
Model green village for Climate change affected families
The project also built a Rwf1.6 billion model green village in Kabyaza village, Rurengeri cell, Mukamira sector in Nyabihu district and relocated 200 households from high risk zones after being affected by flooding and landslides.
The beneficiaries are selected from first and second “Ubudehe” categories and given 150 cows, biogas and rain water harvesting tanks.
“When flooding and landslides befell me in Kintobo sector, my house collapsed. I went to shelter in my neighbor’s small kitchen but it was also destroyed by heavy rain. I was relieved when the project selected me as beneficiary to be relocated to the model green village. I have a decent house I had never dreamt of,” narrated Domithile Nyirahubaka, a 40-year mother of four.
Jean Claude Sibomana, a 31-year old father of two children says he used to live in Kintobo sector but lived in harsh conditions due to incessant disasters.
“I used to rent as my house had been destroyed by floods. When it rained, we never thought we could survive flooding since we were in high risk zone. Now I have a house in Kabyaza village, provided with a cow and land. We have no anxiety,” he said.
Creating off-farm jobs, building capacities in protecting environment
According to Xavier Rwibasira, the Coordinator of Single Project Implementation Unit in Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority, the project has also set aside money for developing activities that could create jobs and generate income while enhancing capacity to ensure sustainable agriculture and environmental protection practices.
These include constructing two mini-markets, one in Kabyaza village in Mukamira sector and the other in Rubyiniro village in Rurembo sector of Nyabihu district.
It is also constructing carrot washing station because farmers used to wash them in the rivers such as Nyamutukura, Kinoni, and lakes such as Karago, Nyirakigugu and Gihirwa in Nyabihu district. Besides, a solid waste treatment and management center is being built in Busogo sector of Musanze district to avoid dumping in such rivers which can trigger sedimentation and flooding.
A handcraft showing center is also being constructed to promote craftsmanship for the community as part of creating off-farm jobs.
Again the project is supporting 107 youth to afford vocation training which is also in line with entrepreneurship e development and creating off-farm jobs while generating income.
Creating off-farm jobs targets to increase beneficiary’scapacity to develop them as part of government target to create annual 200,000 off farm jobs.
More than Rwf515, 315,600 had been disbursed to the beneficiaries and 20,682 people had opened savings accounts in Umurenge SACCOs to build their financial capacity and creating jobs according to the project achievements report by January 2018.
Sustainability of project achievements
To manage the risks and effects of recurring floods, landslides and erosion through an integrated natural resource management in both districts, the project has constructed 11,090 check dams in the gullies, installed progressive terraces and re-planted agro forestry trees on steep slopes on 850.5 ha and bench terraces on 503ha.
It also rehabilitated 8.3 km of channels and reopened 20 caves in Mugogo low land with regular maintenance while it replanted bamboos and alnus trees on 120 ha of channels, river banks and lake shores.
Innocent Musabyimana, the coordinator of the Single Project Implementation unit at the Ministry of Environment said: “The project targeted north western region of Rwanda because it is prone to flooding and landslides due to heavy rainwater running off on hilly areas that are not protected. There is need of draining rainwater to avoid soil flooding and soil erosion as part OF adaptation measures to climate change disasters.”
He stressed that the measures must also go along with creating off-farm jobs for households vulnerable to disasters in those areas.
“ This project is in line with Government has target of 30 % forest coverage of national total surface by 2020, protecting riverbanks, promoting irrigation, designing climate resilient projects and seeking funding for them. That is why what we achieved must be sustained and boost beneficiary’s development.” he added.
Xavier Rwibasira said, “Achievements of the project are at 94 per cent before closing in June this year. We need sustainability of the projects achievements. We urge the project beneficiaries to sustain the achievements since they are the primary to beneficiaries”.
The sustainability is needed to ensure adaptation to climate change impacts through integrated land and water management to support climate-resilient production and post-harvest systems.
The vice mayor in charge of economic development at Musanze district, Augustin Ndabereye added, “Protecting Mugogo low land from flooding has helped the district’s to perform well in performance contracts-imihigo of 2016/2017 to the extent that the district came second in Imihigo at national level. In collaboration with Musanze residents in General we will sustain the project results.”
Antoine Mugwiza, the Vice Mayor of Nyabihu district in Charge of Economic Development Affaires said beneficiaries will be grouped into cooperatives managing the executed infrastructures since they play a role in enhancing agriculture productivity of Irish potatoes and maize in the area and avoid degradation of other properties.
“In Jenda sector, erosion and flooding used to destroy crops, houses and even part of district premises. We are happy with the project that is responding to those disasters. The families resettled in the model village from high risk zones are now overjoyed and have been provided with cows. We need to ensure that such achievements are sustained.
We target youth supported in affording vocational training to exploit provided tool kits for their sustainable development” he said.
The RV3CBA Project is being implemented by the Ministry of Environment and it is executed by the Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority (RWFA) on a period of 4 years (2014-2018) with a financial support from Adaptation Fund by United Nations Framework Convetion on Climate Change (UNFCC).