Rainfall retention protects soil

    | August 11, 2008

    Download this story

    While script package 84 will be posted online and reach our partners by mail soon, we have a sneak preview for our FRW readers right here. Below you’ll find the full text of the grand prize winning script from the competition on “African Farmers’ Strategies for Coping with Climate Change,” written by Jean-Paul Ntezimana from Radio Salus in Rwanda.

    This script explains ways that farmers can cope with drought and flooding, two phenomena that have become more frequent as a result of climate change. The host interviews Alexandre Rutikanga, president of an organization called GRAD (Gate for Rwandan Agricultural Development). Mr. Rutikanga says, “Water shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a solution.” He explains that low-cost collection techniques can store water from heavy rains and make it available for irrigation during the dry season, watering animals, and domestic use.

    Notes to Broadcaster

    The climate change the world is experiencing today is caused mostly by human activity. Climate change includes global warming that is caused by greenhouse gases produced on earth. These gases, including carbon dioxide, are produced when fossil fuels are burned and by other activities on earth, including deforestation. The consequences of climate change are many and unfortunate, especially in under-developed countries where most of the population depend on the products of their fields for survival. These fields are extremely vulnerable to flooding and drought, two situations which are becoming more common with climate change.

    This text will help farmers in developing countries to learn methods that they can use to better manage rainwater in order to protect their soil. This script will also help farmers to adapt to the effects of climate change.

    Cue in signature tune to begin the broadcast. The signature tune fades after 20 seconds and dissolves under the voice of the program host.

    Program host: Good morning, dear friends and listeners of Radio Salus. Welcome to today’s broadcast, whose theme is “Rainfall retention protects soil.” We are going to talk about some of the things that farmers in Rwanda’s southern province do to deal with the changing climate, especially how they manage water and protect soil from erosion. Our guest is Alexandre Rutikanga, the president of GRAD, an association of professional farmers. This broadcast is prepared and presented by Jean Paul Ntezimana. Stay tuned!

    Ten second musical interlude that fades and dissolves under the voice of the program host

    Program host: For a number of years, we have noticed the evolution of the effects of climate change that occur and affect both agricultural seasons in Rwanda: season A is from September to December and season B is from February to June.

    Since our country is very hilly, climate change shows itself either through the heavy rains that wreak havoc on the fields and erode the fertile soil, or through the droughts that hinder plant growth. Each year in Rwanda, a huge quantity of high quality soil – more than 14 million metric tons – is carried away by water erosion. Then, after several months of heavy rains, drought takes over and paralyzes work in the fields. The weeding hoe can no longer penetrate the soil, and the plant that was thriving in the cool air and rainfall stops growing under the drying heat of the sun.

    In Rwanda, climate change results in local droughts, floods and other effects that affect agriculture and cause or worsen misery and poverty, especially among vulnerable farmers such as widows and the elderly. In order to confront the problem, farmers have organized themselves in associations. GRAD is an association of concerned farmers who have started to collect rainwater for future use, to fight against erosion and to protect farmland. A GRAD representative gives us an update on the situation.

    Alexandre: (Low and measured tone of voice) My name is Alexandre Rutikanga. I represent an organization called GRAD, which stands for “Gate For Rwandan Agricultural Development.” In French, it stands for “La Porte pour le Développement Agricole au Rwanda.” Our goal is to promote professional agriculture through the protection of the environment, especially the soil and water that are our most valuable resources. Climate change is a problem for our country. Our farmers do not know how to best manage the water from heavy rainfalls or the drought that follows the rains.

    Program host: Dear farmers, managing runoff water is a big problem for the most vulnerable farmers. Even if we put aside the problem of erosion in the fields, rainwater also damages houses. Mr. Alexandre, isn’t that why GRAD began examining ways to manage roof water in Sahera in the south of the country, where a number of widows of the genocide live?

    Alexandre: (A raised tone of voice) Yes, yes. Widows of the 1994 genocide live in this community. Sahera is built on a steep hill. Runoff water not only threatens farmers’ fields but threatens their houses as well. When I visited Sahera, a heavy rain had fallen the night before. We found a widow of about fifty years of age, completely soaked, who was removing mud from her house. It was a nice morning, but she seemed exhausted. She said she hadn’t slept. She had spent the night fighting the rainwater, trying to prevent it from washing away her home. After seeing that the community of Sahera was threatened by erosion from rainwater on the one hand and poor methods of cultivation on the other, we took some steps to help manage water and soil in this town.

    Ten second musical interlude that fades and dissolves under the guest’s voice

    Alexandre: (Strong tone of voice) We organized a work camp of more than one hundred young people. The young people dug anti-erosion trenches about 800 metres in length, planted pasparum grass and multipurpose trees to retain the soil, and installed gutters on the houses to collect rainwater. I can tell you right now that this is just a temporary solution. We should be collecting the runoff water to use for farming. Water shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a solution! However, it causes damage when it is badly managed or when it exceeds the capacity of our farmers, especially anti-erosive infrastructures. We must change this problem into a solution.

    Program host: Mr. Alexandre, let’s return to the topic of managing and protecting soil in the fields. You say that GRAD must transform the problem of runoff water into a solution. But how are you going to do this?

    Alexandre: With the local farmers, we are going to collect runoff water for three purposes: to irrigate after the rainy season, to water animals, and for domestic use. Our water collection techniques are not expensive and will help us to store water and protect the soil against erosion. We will use three techniques: we will build retention dikes for irrigation, we will construct tanks to collect water from the rooftops of houses, and we will build valley dams where possible. To protect soils on steep slopes, we will also build terraces to slow down runoff water and help crop production in the terraced fields.

    Ten second musical interlude that fades and dissolves under the voice of the program host

    Program host: Dear listeners, rice growers use techniques that resemble those of GRAD, as Joseph Rwagasana, president of the Union des Coopératives des Riziculteurs de Butare explained to us. I met him in the Agasasa valley. A short but strong man of about forty years of age, his forehead covered in sweat and his feet in boots, I asked him if rice growers have techniques for managing water and soil. Here is the answer he gave me:

    Rwagasana: (Sharp voice, strong tone) Yes, certainly. To protect the soil in the valleys, we fight against erosion on the slopes of the hills that surround our valleys. To conserve water, we build dams that hold back the water and create artificial lakes. This isn’t done in all of our valleys, but it is very useful where these dams have been built.

    Program host: Joseph Rwagasana, president of the Union des coopératives des riziculteurs de Butare.

    Ten-second musical interlude that fades and dissolves under the program host’s voice

    Program host:
    Dear farmers, let’s return to our studios and continue our broadcast with our guest, Mr. Alexandre Rutikanga. As we know, fieldwork can run into problems. Has the GRAD association faced any problems with its work on water and soil management?

    Alexandre: The problems are linked mostly to a lack of financing. You all know that agricultural works needs efforts that sometimes exceed the financial capacity of farmers. Farmers should not give up, but organize themselves to seek funding. There is also the problem of organization since GRAD is made up primarily of students. We are therefore organizing our association in order to qualify for national funding.

    Ten second musical interlude that fades and dissolves under the program host’s voice

    Program host: Dear listeners and dear farmers, we hope that you have learned about some techniques for managing water and protecting the soil. Remember that in today’s broadcast we have talked about the consequences of climate change such as drought and flooding. We have also talked about ways to manage rainfall and protect soil that is threatened by erosion. We have discussed methods used by the GRAD association. These methods are also used by the rice growers of Butare. Thank you, Mr. Alexandre, for speaking with us today. Thank you, dear listeners, for your attention, and until next time.

    Increase in the volume of the signature tune to end the program

    Contributed by: Jean Paul Ntezimana, Radio Salus journalist.
    Review: John Stone, Visiting Fellow, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and Jean Fichery Dukurizimana, Radio Salus journalist.

    Information sources
    Vincent Ngarambe, 2004. Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda: Water and Soil Management and Use. Groupe d’Expertise, de Conseil et d’Appui au Développement (GECAD). Kigali, October 2004.
    Charles Uramutse, 2006. Water resources in Rwanda / Ressources en eau en Rwanda. Presentation at UNFCC regional workshop on adaptation, Accra, Ghana, September 21-23, 2006. http://unfccc.int/files/adaptation/adverse_effects_and_response_measures_art_48/application/pdf/200609_rwanda_water.pdf

    Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)