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Piloting Integrated Farm Planning in the Virunga Massif for Better Land Use Management

When land is degraded, there is so much to lose. Keeping the soil fertile is the best solution to ensuring a stable agricultural provision. And this can only be done if small holder farmers are guided on appropriate land and water management practices.

This is the whole idea of the Integrated Farm Planning (PIP) approach that Water4Virungas is piloting in the Virunga Massif. Water4Virungas is working with select farmers in Kisoro district in Uganda, Bugeshi district in Rwanda and Jomba groupement in DRC. The pilot activities have included community awareness meetings, district and sub county stakeholders’ advocacy meetings on soil and water management, selection of willing and committed innovative farmers to pilot the PIP approach. Through meetings and trainings farmers have been educated on the PIP approach and been made to understand and appreciate it’s benefits over the traditional farming practices being used. In Uganda for example, 40 households have been selected from Kabande and Ruchantenge villages in Kisoro and each of the selected must train 10 more other farmers to adopt the best practices (knowledge transfer).

Integrated farm planning focuses on the sustainable use of land by committed farmers. Farmers who are ready and willing to invest in their land and get more from it, not once, but for a lifetime.

The PIP considers motivated people and healthy land to be the foundation for sustainable development: only when farmers become good stewards of their land, and when they put the ‘care for their land’ central, they can establish resilient farming systems and realize more yields from their farms.

Commenting on the PIP approach, Wellard Makambo, a Program officer with the IGCP and a staff on the W4Virungas project says “through the PIP approach W4Virungas will empower farmers to feel able to change their farming challenges and that they see the opportunities to improve. Farmers have to believe that they are in charge of the change they want to see on their farms and that it is possible and attainable”. When people feel empowered, they are able to change many things, and very important: they will own the change and take the responsibility to better care for their resources and thus their future.

There’s evident soil erosion, land degradation and a decline in agricultural productivity in most parts of the Virungas. Farmers in Kabande village revealed that in the past, 15 – 20 years ago one sack of irish potato seeds would yield 7 – 10 sacks but today one sack of seeds yields 2-3 sacks at harvest. These challenges are attributed to a lot of pressure on the land from farmers as they constantly till to provide for their families, poor farming practices and general lack of awareness on water and soil conservation.

This calls for concerted efforts from all actors to restore the landscape and to secure the soils for generations. Farmers have to be shown better and profitable farming practices. The PIP is the starting point to achieving this, because it aims at changing the farmers’ mind set and creates an intrinsic motivation where farming is by choice following the household plan drawn not by default.  

PIP farmers are encouraged and guided on how to develop household integrated farm plans (3-5 years) with an action plan to implement it.  

“Precisely the objective of the PIP approach is to foster resilient farming systems; farms that can resist and recover from shocks such as droughts, excessive rainfall and pest infestations to continue producing food in a sustainable way” notes Sarah Kigongo, W4Vs Project officer in Uganda.

At the end of the day, PIP will not only restore degraded land and soils but will also facilitate increased farm yields and household incomes, eradicate poverty and hunger and also ensure conservation of the environment in the Virunga massif.

Are you a passionate farmer, or do you love farming but have lost hope in your soils? – the PIP approach will help you realize your dream, first by guiding you on how to develop an integrated farm plan with your entire household that will help you manage your soils better and produce more and two by introducing you to better sustainable farming/land management practices that you need for a happy life and family.

 

One Hundred House Hold Rain Water Harvesting Tanks Launched and Handed Over in Bugeshi, Rwanda

At a colorful ceremony held on 29th May in Bugeshi, Water4Virungas Project Coordinator handed over 100 newly installed house hold rain water harvesting tanks to the district leadership to handover to the users. The tanks will help in harvesting water for domestic use by the house holds but also help in arresting water that often runs off causing flooding, soil and gulley erosion in the area. #DevelopingStory

Participants at the launch checking out one of the newly installed rain water harvesting tanks.

Participants at the launch checking out one of the newly installed rain water harvesting tanks.

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Integrated Water Resources Management to Restore Degraded Landscape In Nyabihu District

Due to its elevated landscape nature and the changes in land use, Nyabihu district in Rwanda is largely challenged by environmental degradation caused by soil erosion. There’s need to protect the fertile volcanic soils found in Nyabihu district by introducing proper integrated water resources management practices.

W4V is working closely with the Nyabihu district leadership to address the existing challenges.

Within W4V’s approach of promoting a collaborative and holistic approach through the direct involvement of citizens and local governments, the W4V team along with the Nyabihu District technical staff conducted a field visit to the three sectors (Kabatwa, Jenda and Mukamira) within the project area. The objectives of the field visit were to analyze the situation of the landscape and identify the critical areas for project intervention as well as propose integrated water resources management measures needed for landscape restoration.

The field visit helped in informing the team on the actual situation of IWRM issues in the sectors. Among others the team found out that the sectors still have water and soil management challenges including unprotected gullies, poor management of water from households and roads as well as lack of agroforestry practices on farmlands.

The findings are going to guide W4V and the district leadership on the choice of locations and the kind of interventions to undertake where, say for instance, agro-forestry, gully embankment protection, protection of farmer fields, water storage or diversion facilities.

It is the hope of W4V that the planned interventions will facilitate better soil and water management and consequently increase agricultural productivity and economic development of the district

This field visit was the first step towards the implementation of a series of activities for proper integrated water resources management in the district.


So Far So Good: W4Virungas Making Strides in Uganda

Commenting on the overall progress of the W4V project in Uganda, the Project Officer Sarah Kigongo says, “So far so good. The construction of 12 rain water harvesting tanks (RWHTs) of 30m3 with water catchment roofs and water collection chambers has successfully been completed and water is already flowing in the 10 villages of Nzogera, Kabande, Ruchantege, Rukeri, Musasa and Kabonero in Nyarusiza and Gishondori, Chana, Kanombe Main, Nyagacence Main,  Ntebeko, Mbuga and Gahinga  neighboring  Mgahinga Gorilla National Park”

Water and sanitation Committee members attending the training.

Water and sanitation Committee members attending the training.

Sarah adds that 96 members of the water and sanitation committees including the Local Council I leaders in all the villages  were trained in their operation and maintenance roles and responsibilities, national park conservation, sanitation and hygiene, safe water chain, conflict resolution, effective communication, bye – laws and constitution making, collection and management of water user fees, as well as village savings and loans associations for general group development. The training that targeted about 50% women, 50% men also had Batwa representation - Serutoki Steven from Rukeri village participated and presented the views of the minority groups in the area.

The water and sanitation committees comprising of 8 members each (3-4 being female) are responsible for the overall supervision, management and maintenance of the water facilities.

 According to the Project Officer the main objective of the training was to equip committee members with knowledge and skills on their roles and responsibilities to enable them effectively manage and maintain the rain water harvesting tanks.

Several outputs including development of an operations and maintenance action plan stipulating all the activities to be done, how, when and by who, bye-laws to help guide in the management of the water facilities and a  constitution stipulating how everything about the water project will be handled were registered during the training.

 Sarah attributes the realization of these key milestones to the good working relationship and collaboration with the Kisoro district and the Muramba and Nyarusiza sub county (s)technical staff as well as the support of the local communities and teamwork among the W4V consortium partners.

Giving his remarks at the training the Local Council III Chairperson of Muramba Subcounty Mr. Nzabona Francis expressed gratitude for the all-round training,

“on behalf of the government we are very grateful for this kind of training. I initially thought that you were only going to tell people about sanitation and boiling drinking water, but I am surprised and impressed that you have touched even very sensitive and important topics like conflict resolution”.

 Commenting on the importance and relevance of the newly constructed water tanks, 55-year-old Kwizera Jenina says “the provision of water tanks in the community comes as a relief to the women and children. We have suffered for so long trekking long distances to the park for water and treating recurrent illnesses acquired from consumption of unsafe water. At least now the water burden is going to reduce, and we shall have time for other domestic chores. Thanks to the funders and implementors of this project”.

The water tank in Kabande village

The water tank in Kabande village

 

Water Stressed Villages around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park to Increase Rainwater Harvesting Capacity

Twelve community rain water harvesting tanks are close to completion in 10 villages   bordering Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda.  The 10 villages are some of the water stressed areas in Nyarusiza and Muramba sub counties in Kisoro district, Uganda.  Although densely populated Nyarusiza and Muramba sub counties have about 18 % and 16% of water coverage respectively compared to the town center with 98% water coverage. Most often the communities in Nyarusiza and Muramba frequent the park for water, posing a threat to the lives of the community and that of the mountain gorillas.

A community rain water harvesting water tank under construction in Nzogera village

A community rain water harvesting water tank under construction in Nzogera village

Water4Virungas a trans-boundary project funded by the Kingdom of Netherlands through the Dutch Embassy in Rwanda is working with the local government in Kisoro district, local contractors and the beneficiary communities to ensure that the tanks are complete and functional by April 2019. The project ensures provision of safe and clean water to the communities around the Virungas as a way of reducing human presence in the park and managing conflict between the park and the community, and sometimes amongst the community itself and service providers.

 

Learn the latest about the Water4Virungas project and stay up to date on the program’s developments.

Interview with Gertjan leereveld

Water4Virungas project manager Gertjan Leereveld stopped by the “Blame the project manager” podcast to talk about the project, how to manage a large team and how to keep many balls in the air, all while focusing on delivering good results!

Listen to the complete interview here