Rwanda: Lawmakers Task Agriculture Ministry to Fast-Track Irrigation Schemes

The Lower House has requested the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources to indicate how it is implementing strategies to address issues hindering irrigation efforts, including very limited irrigated land so that food production does not heavily rely on rainfall.

It said that this resolution is intended to help farmers build resilience to climate change – drought – and achieve food security and must be executed within three months.

It made the resolution on November 15 after adopting the analysis report of its Committee on Land, Agriculture, Livestock, and Environment.

The committee report was about its analysis of the performance audit on irrigation schemes in Rwanda, which was carried out by the Auditor General. The audit covered the period from July 2018 to December 2022.

The Chairperson of the Committee on Land, Agriculture, Livestock, and Environment, MP Marie Alice Kayumba Uwera, said that while analysing the report, the committee members found that the Auditor General exposed key issues.

These include issuing inaccurate irrigation reports whereby it was observed that there were mismatches between the irrigatable farmland and that contained in the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB)’s data repository, she indicated. The land in question includes that on hillsides, and marshlands.

Another issue, she said, was poor management of the irrigation programme where it was realised that more than 18,000 hectares were expected to be irrigated in 31 sites inspected, but only 29 per cent of the area in question was under irrigation, while 71 per cent was not irrigated.

“It was realised that farming is hinging on rainfall availability, which negatively affects agricultural output,” Uwera said.

Again, irrigation on a hillside was not done effectively as there are cases where agricultural land was used for livestock keeping instead of irrigated crop farming.

The lack of an effective maintenance and protection plan for irrigation infrastructure was also a challenge that the report pointed to, citing damaged irrigation equipment at Nasho, Musheri, Mahama, Rurambi, and Gashora sites.

There are some of the farms on developed marshlands that were negatively affected by floods, and valley dams of Base in Ruhango, Kageyo in Kayonza, Mahama in Kirehe, and Cyabayaga in Nyagatare that were no longer able to retain water as they were filled with silt (sand, soil or mud) by erosion.

Meanwhile, the audit also revealed that Rurambi marshland was damaged by flooding from Akagera River, yet in December 2019 and January 2020, RAB signed a more than Rwf2.5 billion deal with a contractor to rehabilitate the marshland and a dyke to prevent the river water overflow from destroying farmers’ crops.

Under the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1), Rwanda targets to irrigate more than 102,000 ha by the year 2024.

The area under irrigation in the country amounted to more than 68,000 ha as of the 2021-2022 financial year, according to MINAGRI’s annual report 2021-2022.


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