Since June this year, Feston Mbarushimana, a farmer in Kirehe district, knew at least he would have his maize and beans harvested by December to provide food for his family and fodder for his cattle.
Like many other small-scale farmers in his neighbourhood, he has been desperately waiting for the rainy season that usually starts in September. When September came, he prepared his four-acre farm and planted maize and a few rows of beans with hopes to sell them once they mature in December.
Farmers in the Eastern Province, the driest part of the country, count on rainy seasons and irrigation to grow their crops. The region saw minimum rain this season, leaving farmers who cannot afford irrigation stranded.
Weather predictions by Rwanda Meteorology Agency indicated in September that the current rainy season will receive below-normal rainfall. The eastern region known as Amayaga was predicted to receive a minimum rain of 200 mm while the northwestern region would receive a maximum rain of 500 mm.
“My land has been dry for half a year now. I was counting on this rainy season but we received almost no rain. October and November are usually rainy months. The maize and beans I grow in this period are harvested in December and January until March. Farmland is of no worth if water is not available,” the 46-year-old farmer recounts.
Like Mabrushimana, farmers in eastern region, most of whom are too poor to afford irrigation systems, can already see hunger looming.
Local officials have reported that 59 sectors out of 95 that make up the entire Eastern Province are facing drought. Hunger looms over half of the 2.6 million population in the
Farmers predict prolonged poverty due to droughts and high inflation. Over the years, droughts in the Eastern Province have become severe year after year. The most memorable for residents and farmers was in 2016 when some families had to rely on food donations from the government.
This year's drought come at an unfortunate time after Rwanda’s food reserves were used up being given out to thousands of vulnerable homes during anti-coronavirus lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.