Despite a somewhat dry spell in Bugesera District, farmers from the area reported good harvests of beans, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, avocadoes, papaws and mangoes.
Beata Ntabaganyimana and Mathias Sindibara, from Ruhuha Sector in Bugesera District, are among those that reported good harvest.
For long, crops in this semi-arid area have often been destroyed by prolonged dry spells that are common in the area especially between May to September each year.
However, this year was different as smallholder farmers adopted the use of small solar-powered irrigation systems to water their crops, as well as intercropping seasonal crops with fruit trees, according to Ntabanganyimana.
By intercropping seasonal crops such as beans, tomatoes and onions with fruit trees, the general productivity has been seen to go up, according to John Gakwavu, the executive secretary of Rwanda Environment Conservation Organisation (RECOR).
“Instead of focusing on only seasonal crops, we are encouraging farmers in Bugesera to plant fruit trees in their gardens that will not only provide additional source of income but also mitigate climate change effects,” said Gakwavu.
Besides the thousands of fruit trees already planted, another 7,500 seedlings of different fruit trees are set to be distributed to residents for planting this season.
Sindibara credits the agro-forestry option for “providing diversified source of income, food nutrients and soil manure to nourish crops”.
Climate smart technologies, like grafting of avocados which take a shorter period to produce, have also been adopted by farmers, added Gakwavu.
“This approach is a new practice that enables farmers understand the impact of climate change and seek for suitable solutions instead of complaining about its impact on their livelihoods,” he adds.
Gakwavu says the fruit trees have multiple benefits including reduction of carbon emissions and improving livelihoods of rural communities.
Over 172,000 seedlings of improved fruit trees resilient to drought are set to be distributed in eight sectors of Bugesera, Mareba, Ngeruka, Ruhuha, Nyarugenge, Juru, Kamabuye, Rilima and Rweru by June, 2019.
“We target to plant 80 hectares of fruit trees under the irrigation scheme to promote green and climate resilient technologies,” said Gakwavu.
“We are grafting indigenous mangoes, oranges, guavas, pawpaw and avocado fruit tree varieties with more productive ones,” he added.
Producing throughout the year
Pascal Nshimyimana, the Executive Secretary of Bihari cell in Ruhuha Sector, said that communities around Lake Cyohoha would previously watch helplessly as their crops withered and dried during long dry seasons.
“But now, people can irrigate their crops using the solar-power irrigation systems, which will ensure food security and support households economically,” he noted.
Gakwavu says it is part of the government’s agenda to make farmers take control of the farming activities by solar power irrigation.
Climate resilient approaches
Gakwavu, however, noted that a section of farmers are still reluctant to grow seasonal crops among fruit trees, in fear that the trees will affect production of their crops because of the shade.
“Farmers didn’t understand how agro-forestry works or its benefits, and it has taken the intervention of local leaders for them to embrace the practice” he said