Irrigation can ensure optimal utilization of all cultivatable land to produce enough food for nationals and surplus for international markets.
On a small hill of Bunyogombe cell, Ruhango sector in Ruhango district lives Sylvain Ndahayo, a small-scale vegetables and fruits farmer.
He grows leeks, carrots, parsleys, onion and cabbages throughout the year using harvested rain water. With a small machine connected to the pool of water through a pipe, Ndahayo is able to pump water to his garden. This father of two no longer waits for rain to plant his vegetables.
This is small-scale irrigation that Ndahayo has practiced for a year and a half. He copied the idea from his neighbor that seen a big change in his life.
“Initially, I used fetch water for my crops from down the valley and I would be very exhausted at the end of the day. And for all that effort, I would get almost nothing as the yield was poor,” he said.
The skills that he had learned were supplemented by material support provided by the former Rwanda Agricultural Development Authority, now under Rwanda Agriculture Board.
The water pit that he built with the support of RADA has capacity to keep 125 cubic meters – the quantity that can help him irrigate his crops for three months during a dry season.
“Now I can use one hour irrigating my vegetables and save the remaining time for other activities. I used to spend the whole time going to the well,” Ndahayo says.
Not only is Ndahayo now food secure, but also has a source of income.
With in a year and a half, had already paid back his Frw 300,000 loan that he took when setting up his shelter. He also bought a portion of land worth Frw 300,000 while he also plans to buy another one worth Frw 400,000 to expand his activities.
He also has a project to set up biogas system electrification worth Frw 600,000 by the end of this year.
“Everybody now knows that I grow vegetables and they ask me to supply them some quantity,” Ndahayo says. “This encourages me and pushes me to do more that I can become a model farmer.”
His neighbor, Abel Nsengimana, also practices similar irrigation since 2007. He grows tomatoes and bananas.
For Nsengimana, there has been a big change in his life since he started using the small scale irrigation. “I was not getting any yield here, but now my production is ten times more than what I used to get,” says Nsengimana. He can now save around Frw 400,000 at the end of a season.
Ndahayo and Nsengimana’s achievements mirror government efforts to improve agriculture – the sector that employs more than 80 percent of Rwandans, through irrigation.
Irrigation has helped large maize farmers in eastern province. For instance, in Mpanga sector of Kirehe district, there is big maize farm on a consolidated land. There, constructions of infrastructure to facilitate irrigation on a large scale are ongoing. So far, three giant tanks and have been set up with pines to pump water.
Jean Claude Musabyimana, a member of task force in charge of irrigation and mechanization, says that the project in Mpanga sector aims to manage 600ha. So far, 200 ha have been covered while the whole project treatment, started in March of last year, will be complete by the end of this year. The project will cost of Frw 6 billion. The project will produce about 1,800 tons per season with 200 families cultivating the area.
According to Musabyimana, the irrigation project in Mpanga is part of the ministry’s initiative to expand basic infrastructure necessary to irrigate hillsides and marshlands.
About 23,000 ha are now under irrigation country-wide with only1000ha on hills.
“Our target is to achieve 100,000ha by 2017 from the starting point of 18,000ha we had in 2011,” Musabyimana points out.