Karuyege lowland covers an area of 45 hectares in the Muko Sector of Musanze District and is the community’s best farmland. But it is also prone to flooding, a problem that has steadily worsened.
“Since 1989, the lowland has suffered the gradual effects of climate change,” says Rukezabera Epaphrodithe, the president of Karuyege farmers, who has lived his whole life in the area.
In 2017, extreme rainfall caused three mountain rivers that feed the lowland area to violently flood the lowlands, washing away the crops. The fields lay barren for two years and the nearby maize processing factory was forced to close.
When the floods struck again in 2019, UNDP in Rwanda initiated a rehabilitation project in partnership with the Ministry of Emergency Management (MINEMA). Its goal was to mitigate the floods’ impacts and boost food production.
The project employed 152 local men and women—which the farmers counted as a blessing. They re-channeled the three rivers. “They planted trees and bamboo and constructed gabions along the curve of the rivers to protect the riverbanks against sediments and enable the river to flow smoothly,” Rukezabera recalled.
In the process, the farmers learned how to protect the land from future flooding. They banded together to form the Abajyananigihe farmer cooperative, with each member contributing RWF 500 per year towards flood-control maintenance. For the next two seasons, the community doubled its harvest from two to four tons of food.
Prepared to act
Then, in September 2021, when the rains again threatened their crops, the farmers joined forces. They gathered in the marsh to mitigate the damages caused by torrents, and re-channeled the flood waters away from their crops.
“The damage we are seeing today is not as bad as before the rehabilitation,” said Mukandayisenga Donata, a farmer and mother of four in Karuyege.
“In 2019, I lost 60% of the crops I had just planted. This land feeds my children and pays for school fees. That is why in September I joined my fellow farmers to alleviate the adverse impacts of the torrents.”
Inspired by the community’s action and the commitment of the UNDP, Andrew Bucyana, the Economic Vice Mayor at the Musanze District, says that protection of the lowlands is a priority for the District of Musanze. The District plans to repair the road to the maize processing factory, and district authorities have engaged the Ministry of Agriculture, the Rwanda Agriculture Board, and the MINEMA to find longer-term solutions to protect the fertile low-lying fields of Karuyege.