The day begins with the slopes of green hills held on the right and the left of large flat land divided into equal pieces. A weak wind blows, as Liliane Uwamahoro cultivates her piece of land. Like other rice growers, Uwamahoro will soon grow rice during this summer time.
She is a 22-year old single lady who has lived near Base valley. She decided to become a farmer when she failed to continue her studies in secondary school. But this decision delayed because of obstacles she observed in the valley.
For instance, the environment does not have protection, the effects of the climate change mainly floods and drought destroyed many times the intended results of farming activities.
“To grow rice and get crops was God’s gift, it was just a chance,” Uwamahoro says. Problems alternated, drought during rainy months or floods; this made rice growers fail after investing their energy and money in their pieces of land in this valley.
“Some years back, agriculture seasons were marred either by much rain or drought”, says Felix Nsanzabaganwa, an environmental expert in the area.
Other experts at the National University center for Environmental Management claim that climate change in Rwanda is palpable due the lack of rain water or prolonged drought.
In September 2007, Uwamahoro joined rice growers in Base valley of Bweramana sector where German Agro Action built a water dam retainer. Water from this dam was used for the first time by farmers from September to December 2007.
“I hope I will grow enough plants this time”, says Gustave Muvunyi, a local farmer who has been using Base valley for years. Muvunyi explains that before the water dam was built, people were at times in social conflicts because rich farmers arrogated upon themselves the use of the little water available in the valley.
“I think that now people will grow their plants for the two seasons because of the water dam,” holds Felix Nsanzabaganwa.
In 2007, the piece of land owned by Uwamahoro allowed her to produce four big bags of rice. This is approximately 400 kilograms of rice. “I am not satisfied with the production but it is not too bad, I would like to get more”, she says.
According to the records of Ruhango district about rice production in Base and Kiryango valleys, general production recently increased. That is from 3.7 tones per hectare (2006) to 4 tones (2007). The production has now reached 5.2 tons (2008).
“I think the crop increase is due to the presence of the water dam retainer and other agriculture techniques we teach farmers”, says Thacien Uwayisaba, an agronomist in charge of agriculture in Ruhango district.
Before the dam was built, Base and Kiryango valleys were used for one agriculture season in 12 months, from February to June. Worse still it was not possible to use this valley during the summer time. Engineer Uwayisaba explains that it was risky because rice is a plant which needs water constantly. “When water decreases, rice production turns very uncertain,” he explains.
German Agro Action officials explain that the contribution of the water dam to face climate change effects in agriculture is great. The coordinator of the project, Dr Fred Goericke says that the water dam in Base valley is included in a big project proposed by the government officials in former Gitarama prefecture.
This project hopes to complete the work of Rural Sector Support Project (RSSP) by building some other dams in different valleys in the country.
Dr Goericke hopes that, like Uwamahoro does, more other rice growers will soon grow their plants in valleys without the climate annoyances.
However, water dams can be a threat to farmers themselves if they are not well managed. Valère Nzeyimana, a technician at a water dams in GAA, thinks that it is important to teach farmers how to manage their water dams.