Rwanda is one the countries that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the agriculture which contribute a third of countries GDP is the highly threatened sector. In recent years, the threats posed by climate change, environmental degradation and food insecurity in Rwanda have become obvious to all. But rural families need practical solutions to the challenges of poor soils, rain scarcity and poor yields. Many small-scale farmers in the Eastern province, particularly in Bugesera District; are still using traditional methods to cultivate their fields. They dig up a field and then make mounds or ridges on which to plant their crops. But because of drought, crop performance is always poor and yields are often very low.
In 2018; Nature Rwanda launched a two years conservation farming project, to give small-scale farmers an opportunity to achieve better livelihoods in the face of climate change. Conservation farming of very simple methods of farming that include reduced disturbance of the soil during land preparation, no burning of crop residues after harvest, crop rotation, and reliance whenever possible on organic sources like compost and livestock manure for crop nutrients instead of chemical fertilizer. The project was funded by Global environment Facility-Small Grant Program. The project reused 8ha of abandoned land in Ngarama Village, and directly engaged 75 households of small holder farmers. After a series of indoor and field trainings, beneficiaries expanded the lessons learnt to other 85 households. Generally, 17 ha are under conservation farming practices and involved 160 households and brought direct impact to 385 women, 262 men, and 364 children.
Through the implementation period of March 2018 to January 2020, we have seen a great success, however amazingly that brought another huge lasting story to tell we are observing today. Though the project community members find a sustainable solution for their quest of food security:
Agnes NYIRAHAKIZIMANA; an agronomist at Gicaca cell (project site), “she said that agriculture in Musenyi is negatively impacted by bad weather and poor farming techniques. Local administration is always struggling to find the best adaptive method to help small holder farmers to improve their farming practices and agro-outputs. Today, the number of farmers in Gicaca village who are adopting domesticating conservation farming is increasing. This is a lesson learn from the beneficiaries worked with Nature Rwanda on this project. Conservation farming was identified as a sustainable approach to increase the annual food produce with minimum agro inputs, and it is practical even during the seasons with lower than average rainfall. The constructed community seedbank is now helping farmers to save quality seed for the next coming cropping seasons, which steps into the national agriculture policy agendas. The green water tank constructed is a reference point in our community for minimizing waste by Reuse and Recycle approach, it is also helping us water harvesting and water storage during prolonged drought. We appreciate the work done; it is bringing the lasting impacts, from this project we are witnessing a huge impact on the target poor families, because they can now meet the household food needs, and sell the rest as source of income“
“This project boosted my life to another level and brought a hope for the future”, said UWAMBAJIMANA Angelique, the representative of DUTERIMBERE farmers’ group. “I am a woman and a mother to six children. From my childhood agriculture was my only source of income; I was always challenged by securing enough food and sustaining livelihoods of my family due to the lack of rain that caused crop failures in most of all cropping seasons! Therefore, forced me to depend on government aid through VUP. Until 2018 when I joined the project of Nature Rwanda, as one of the beneficiaries under the conservation farming project. Today I have a story to tell, my crop production boosted at a rate of 60%. On my small plot of 25mX30m, I have produced maize’s, beans, cabbages and Onions. Apart from producing food for my family, up to now, I have generated more than one million Rwandan francs from my current farming practices. This helped me to cover other household expenses such as health insurances, school fees for my children, and I am a member of one of the local women saving cooperatives! In addition, there were always dispute in our family resulted from limited funds satisfying household needs, but today everyone in family has peace of mind we are sharing our happy moment in peace.”
Macyenga a member of DUTERIMBERE farmers’ group said: “From the start I taught I can’t do it-producing food in the face of insufficient rain, but Nature Rwanda proved me wrong! From the training I attended, I have developed a deeper commitment of investing my time and energy in conservation farming by adopting composting, minimum tillage, and mulching. It is now one year since the project was completed, confidently as people who benefited from the project, we keep the same spirit and spread the best practices to other community members. In average, I have personally earned 435, 000 RWF from the food produce apart from what was consumed at home. We are experiencing successful strategies as small holder farmers do to adapt to challenging weather conditions. This is a great experience I have ever seen”.