Elizabeth Nyirakayeye will never forget the night her entire three parcels of lan on which she had grown Irish potatoes perished through landslides and floods that hit most parts of Nyabihu District early last month.
Her potatoes were just a few weeks to harvest.
Nyirakayeye, a smallholder farmer and mother of four from Jenda Sector in Nyabihu says that the losses she incurred are valued at Rwf600,000 which she expected to cash in on the harvest if the season had gone as planned.
Her two gardens were completely submerged by waters from the nearby Lake Nyirakigugu which spilled over and destroyed hectares of various crops from the area.
“I had invested in quality seeds, fertilizers and pesticides but all this has gone to waste. I am counting losses because that all my crops were washed away during the calamity,” she noted.
She said she had invested Rwf200,000.
Nyirakayeye and other smallholder farmers from across the district who spoke to The New Times appealed to the Government and partners to roll out interventions to sustainably revive their farming activities to ensure they cope with life after they were adversely affected by the floods.
“My wife and I were expecting to harvest at least ten bags of beans but that is no longer the case. All our plantations perished through landslide that even swept away arable land, meaning that we cannot even grow anything,” said Faustin Nsekanabo, a farmer from Rugera Sector.
Adding, “We urgently need to be supported to at least get quality seeds and fertilizers if we are to put food on table. Farming is our source of livelihood.”
Smallholder farmers from across the district expressed anxiety towards optimal produce in the next planting season owing to the fact that arable land was washed away into different water bodies in the area.
“We were only left with that part of soil which is normally hard to cultivate and it is barren. We are requesting government to avail us with technical assistance on the best way we shall cultivate,” Pudencienne Kabageni, a farmer from Shyira Sector, also in Nyabihu, said.
Figures from Nyabihu District indicate that 618 hectares of various crops were washed away in flash floods that ravaged the district early last month with more than 1,000 smallholder farmers affected just from this area.
The district mayor, Antoinette Mukandayisenga, said that effects from the torrential rains that ravaged the district have outstretched their financial capacity, stressing that the district has appealed for intervention of the central government, through the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Agriculture.
“It is obvious that small scale farmers need urgent support given effects of these landslides and floods. In the meantime, we have sent a consolidated report to senior officials so that the farmers are given seeds and fertilisers so that they can plant afresh,” she said.
Mukandayisenga went on to explain that the district engaged experts in agriculture to assess the fate of farmers whose top soil was washed away by the landslides.
Civil society weighs in
Rachel Muyoboke, chairperson of the organisation that strives to defend and protect socio-economic interests and welfare of small scale farmers and environment protection (APPE-ESAFF Rwanda) told The New Times that they were going to advocate for the farmers owing to the effects of these disasters that threaten food security.
“After assessing consequences of the disasters that affected farmers in Nyabihu District, we are going to play an advocacy role to ensure they get the necessary help,” she said, adding that their advocacy will target central government and parliament for timely intervention.
“If nothing is urgently done those farmers and their dependants might starve,” she added.
She called upon farmers to observe best practices that include fighting soil erosion to rotating crops and timely planting of crops to cushion them against adverse effects of disasters.