July 22, 2024


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2019-2022: What are the feelings of citizens who were once devastated by Sebeya river flooding?

When you visit some parts of Rubavu District in the Western Province of Rwanda, residents assure you that they now feel safe due to the fact that they are no longer affected by the disasters mainly caused by the poor management of the Sebeya Catchment.

By Deus Ntakirutimana, TOP AFRICA NEWS reporter

For instance, Residents of Rubavu District who used to be affected by the Sebeya flooding testify that since the beginning of Sebeya Catchment Rehabilitation, they are safe both in the wellbeing and the economic aspects.

A large number of these residents believe that so far, their houses and their crops are no longer flooded due to tangible measures taken in the Sebeya Catchment Rehabilitation Project.

Normally, the Sebeya Catchment in Western Rwanda has been facing a series of compounding crises: Steep, mountainous terrain, deforestation, mining exploitation, unsustainable agricultural practises and some of the heaviest rainfall resulted in extreme soil erosion, siltation and turbidity and downstream flooding resulting in economic damage, loss of life and livelihoods.

In 2019, the Rwandan Government with the financial support from the Dutch Embassy in Kigali launched the “Embedding Integrated Water Resource Management in Rwanda (EWMR)” Project to restore Sebeya Catchment. The cathchment combines Rubavu, Nyabihu, Rutsiro and Ngororero Districts.

Later in the implementation process, the Government attributed the restoration tasks to the Rwanda Water Resources Board (RWB) which has been receiving the technical support from the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) and Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative (RWARRI).

Taking the example of Rubavu District, it is well-known that Sebeya river has been repeatedly devastating properties and human lives in Nyundo, Kanama and Rugerero sectors specifically in cells such as Karambo, Nyamwiri, Nkomane and Rusongati where Sebeya flooding was the major cause of deaths during the period of Heavy rain.

The issue, which has been widely reported in the media on a daily basis [during the rainy season] has provoked the government and its donors to seek a solution between the years 2019-2022.

One cow per family has brought happiness in the faces of the catchment residents among many other initiatives

Relocation of residents from High risks zones, planting bamboo and reeds along the river Sebeya, afforestation and agroforestry programs were initiated, water retention walls were constructed, horizontal and vertical terraces are becoming a source of incomes among households, erosion control and livelihoods projects such as One cow per family have brought happiness in the faces of the catchment residents among many other initiatives.

For nearly two years, residents in those areas say they are now able to sleep without fearing that the erosion or flooding water could cause catastrophes.

Ms. Donathille Mukarango, a mother of five , was one of the victims of the floods three years ago.

At the time, her house was completely demolished by the outflow of Sebeya river.

She asserted that Sebeya Catchment restoration has been a solution to their lives that were at risk as well as to the properties that were being destroyed each time it was raining.

Ms. Mukarango testified that Sebeya flooding destroyed other houses, including those of her neighbors in Nyamwiri village in Kabirizi cell.

Ms. Nyirandabateze Goretti, another resident, says the impacts of the project on the river have calmed the flooding down, and now they have no similar panic like it was before the launch of the catchment restoration project.

Sebeya Catchment Protection and Landscape Restoration activities have resulted into increased production of Irish potatoes

On the part of the administration, the mayor of Rubavu district, Mr. Ildephonse Kambogo says that the restoration of Sebeya Catchment has been productive for the past two years.

“We used to have many cases where the Sebeya river was flooding into the houses of the people, some of which collapsed and their various belongings were damaged including human loss” Mr. Kambogo testified.

He said the other commendable fact is the terraces that had been built on the slopes which have now stopped the erosion and those terraces that have also increased the farming productivity.

The official said the project benefits will continue to be maintained, taking good care of bamboo and trees planted, erosion control and terraces will also be maintained, in addition to repairing water retention walls where needed.

Commenting on the impacts of the Sebeya Catchment Restoration projects, the former IUCN Country Representative and Current IUCN Regional Head of Land systems and IUCN Kenya Country Representative Mr. Charles Karangwa said “the project have significantly improved biophysical conditions of the catchment including reduction in soil erosion and floods.”

He added that “It has strengthened communities’ economic capacity to thrive and it has created thousands of jobs especially during the COVID 19 period.”

According to the official there is a need to scale up the Village land use action plans across all country’s catchments as an implementation tool to stop soil erosion and improve people’s livelihoods.

Through pro-active and participatory engagement with team from Rwanda Water Resources Board, and technical supports from IUCN, SNV, RWARRI and districts, the project yielded tangible benefits that include reduced impacts of flooding in the catchment, landscapes restored, enhanced agricultural yields, and improved community livelihoods.

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