Rwandans are staring at food shortage in the coming months after the recent floods and landslides destroyed thousands of acres of farmland, dashing hopes of good yields for the current season.
The heavy rains and floods that went on for days killing more than 130 people, also destroyed crops in the country’s Eastern, Northern, Western and Southern provinces — hitting food basket areas the hardest.
Jean-Paul Munyakazi, the head of Imbaraga, a nationwide farmer’s lobby group, told Rwanda Today that the disasters have already destroyed a lot of crops, mostly Irish potatoes, maize, wheat, beans and vegetables that had been planted in swamps and on hills, and that production, especially of staple foods, will be affected.
“The disasters have had an adverse effect on crops and agriculture in general, we were expecting a slightly higher yield this season, but all these hopes have been dashed, we won’t have the yield we expected.”
“We expect a sharp drop in Irish potatoes, maize and beans which are staple foods and this will have a bearing on food security, but it will not be adverse,” he said.
In Nyagatare District sectors of Musheri and Matimba alone, up to 279 hectares of maize, rice, beans and soya crops were destroyed by heavy rains, while thousands more hectares of crops were destroyed in the country’s Southern, Western and Northern provinces, yet only a fraction of these are covered by insurance.
Efforts to get a comment from the Ministry of Agriculture were futile by press time.
Munyakazi said besides destroying planted crops the disasters destroyed seeds, especially for staple foods like Irish potatoes, which may have a far-reaching negative impact on the quantities and cost of seeds, which will affect agricultural production even in the coming years.
“Seeds were already expensive for many. Now with many seeds destroyed, the price is expected to increase by at least 30 percent. It will be beyond the reach of many farmers, which will pose production problems starting with season C.”
Farmers have also expressed concern that the disasters may have led to the spread of crop diseases.
“Technicians from RAB and RICA need to work together in conducting technical disease control studies and undertake measures to limit the spread of crop diseases in disaster-affected areas of the country, ” said Munyakazi.
Besides flattening up to 6,000 houses, the disasters also destroyed rural infrastructure such as roads and bridges which are used by farmers, extension workers, input distributors and crop buyers to access agricultural areas.
The country will need at least Rwf130 billion to repair infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools and medical facilities that were affected by the recent floods and landslides.
According to Minister of Infrastructure Ernest Nsabimana, Rwf110 billion will be spent on building national and district roads, bridges, electricity and water infrastructure.
Recently in parliament, Minister of Agriculture Ildephonse Musafiri called for an increasing the budgetary allocation beyond the Rwf154.8 billion - a drop from Rwf168.8 billion allocated last year.
This allocation — at three percent of the national budget — is way lower than the 10 per cent that African countries committed to under the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), in order to achieve annual agricultural growth rates of at least 6 per cent.
With this small budget, the ministry will face an uphill climb in spending on the response efforts needed to repair the damages caused by the disasters to the agriculture sector.