Farmers in South-East face low rainfall in new season

Tuesday March 5 2019


Man inspects his farm in Rwanda's Eastern Province. PHOTO | FILE 

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Farmers in South-East face low rainfall in new season Farmers in drought prone areas in the South-East parts of the country are being warned of low rainfall during the March to May period.

The seasonal outlook for the upcoming season released last week on Tuesday recommended that different ministries come up with mitigation strategies as the low rainfall is predicted to affect farmers and their livestock.

The areas facing drought include Kirehe, Gisagara, Southern Part of Ngoma, Bugesera and Rusizi, which will receive depressed rainfall, according to the Rwanda Meteorology Agency.

The rest of the country will receive near normal rainfall except districts like Rutsiro, Karongi, Nyabihu, Ngororero and most parts of Nyamagabe, Karongi and Kigali City, which are predicted to get normal to above normal rainfall.

“The normal to above normal rainfall expected may cause floods, landslides, waterborne disease, destruction of houses and this could see loss of life and damage to properties,’ said Rwanda Meteorology Agency director-general Aimable Gahigi, while announcing the weather advisory.

Last year in the same period of the March-May season, there were landslides triggered by massive flooding, which paralysed key power, water, road and bridge infrastructure for weeks. This saw movement of goods on the Kigali-Gatuna road — a major regional transport corridor — come to a standstill after it was cut off.

Torrential rains during March to May also caused devastating losses to several households and farms.

Mr Gahigi said that in addition to the seasonal forecast, his office will continue to issue regular forecasts ranging from daily, three, five, 10 days or monthly updates as well as advisories through the early warning system.

Mathieu Mbati Mugunga, a senior forecaster at Rwanda Meteorology Agency said relevant institutions and authorities handling vulnerable sectors had been given the seasonal forecast information in order to come up with preventive and mitigation strategies especially where rainfall is expected to be higher than 510mm, and less than 390mm.

He said the normal rainfall is within the 390mm- 510mm range.

“We have been meeting with different institutions to discuss what the forecast will mean. Some firms like the Water and Sanitation Corporation need to store more water for use during the affected months as there could be a scarcity.

The information is not just relevant to farming but a wide range of sectors like transport, infrastructure and emergency management,” said Mr Mugunga.

Authorities handling the agriculture docket and emergency management have been put on alert as the recurrent weather shocks could impose a huge bill. Charles Bucagu, deputy director-general of Agriculture at the Rwanda Agriculture Board said they are planning to adjust planting activities to the predicted onset and end of the rainfall.

Mr Bucagu said farmers in districts with less rains would be advised to plant quick-maturing seeds or those that are drought resistant.

“This strategy will be matched with irrigation in order to minimise the potential impact,” he said.

Last year, the government had to intervene to avert a food crisis by distributing 7,000 tonnes of maize and 4,000 tonnes of beans to farming communities affected by adverse weather disasters that hit different parts of the country between March and May.