By Elias Hakizimana
Irrigation technologies are critical for increased agricultural productivity and therefore, small scale agricultural water management technologies should be the first step, Agricultural experts have said.
They were speaking during a workshop on Thursday to validate the maps delimitating 13 developed livelihood zones/maps which highlight each area’s water potential and selected water technologies for small-scale agriculture.
These zones and technologies were identified by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with government of Rwanda which includes river diversion schemes, soil and water conservation, water harvesting and water lifting under the project: “More effective and sustainable investments in water for poverty reduction”.
At the regional level, the project is being implemented in six African countries namely Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Rwanda, Tanzania and Niger.
Dr. Otto Vianney Muhinda, the Assistant FAO Representative to Rwanda said that the project aims to respond to the challenge on how to grow more food, increase incomes, reduce poverty, and protect the environment through the design and implementation of high-quality investments in agricultural water through research and development, capacity development and policy Dialogue.
“Irrigation and best management of water for agriculture are among the tools that help to reduce vulnerability to changing rainfall patterns and sustain farmers’ livelihoods and food security,” Muhinda said.
He added that such potential investment is required to make rural livelihoods more resilient and to increase agricultural productivity.
According to Hamson Micomyiza, the acting head of irrigation, terraces development and mechanization division at Rwanda Agriculture Board, it is time for government to embark on effective water management aspect.
“The agriculture productivity is enhanced by three major drivers namely water for agriculture, inputs and fertilizers. These livelihood zones will enable us to know and understand where investment should be put for yielding to sustainable production, “he said.
Micomyiza noted that there are still challenges in terms of irrigation since the cost of irrigation is high especially on hilly areas, thus hampering water pumping systems on hills.
The government subsidizes the cost of small scale irrigation technologies at 50 per cent for small farmers with 0.7 ha. So far, over 48,000 ha have been irrigated both in valleys and hillside.
The target is based on an irrigation master plan developed in 2010 which indicates that there are potential irrigation areas of 600,000.
Micomyiza further noted that the mapping zone of potential water and management technologies being validated will help orient projects to the potentialities areas showed.
“This mapping developed will also help us show where sponsors and investors can have a focus in terms of irrigation,” he said.
Eugene Ntagengerwa, is the farmer from Bugesera district, he said “Irrigation is possible once water is available for farmers and when equipments are not expensive. Irrigation equipments are costly, maintenance and getting spare parts is also difficult for some types of equipment since they are imported.
Besides facilitating small scale irrigation, there is need of wide irrigation projects that benefit many farmers on a consolidated land,” he said.
For Monique Buteto , an employee of Burera district in charge of irrigation, there is a need of subsidizing small scale irrigation at 75 per cent to farmers classified in 1st and 2nd ubudehe categories since the current 50 per cent of subsidies is still high for them.