Rwandan lawmakers have asked the government to assume appropriate land use to save the country from food shortage and adopt safe agricultural techniques.
In a consultative meeting organised by the lower chamber of the Rwandan parliament on climate change, the lawmakers raised a red flag over inappropriate land use.
“When people are choosing cemeteries in different districts and sectors they go for good land, putting puts pressure on the small arable land we have,” observed Zeno Mutimura.
This adds to the existing concern of persistent settlement on arable land blamed on population growth and urban expansion. According to the MPs, decentralised entities need to ensure that land is used as prearranged.
Analysts say inappropriate land use coupled with a growing population pressure on arable land would become a serious threat to food security, far more than droughts that have in the recent past caused severe shortage of water and foliage for livestock.
Rwanda is among the most densely populated countries in the word with 415 people per square metre while its annual urban growth rate of 4.5 per cent far exceeds the worldwide average of 1.8 per cent.
Due to change in climatic conditions, Rwanda has adopted modern agricultural techniques designed to limit the threat on both crop quality and quantity.
Special focus has been put on irrigation with the country having a target 100,000 hectares irrigated by 2020, while the total farmland that can be irrigated is 600,000 hectares, according to the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).
Figures from RAB show that over 45,000 hectares are being irrigated across the country with about 5,600 hectares under small-scale irrigation subsidised by the government.
Lawmakers want safe irrigation and use of chemical inputs and pesticides that do not threaten environment be top on the priority list.
This followed concerns raised by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) that, though important, irrigation must be coupled with technology to save the country from water scarcity and environmental degradation.
“When we practise hillside irrigation, for example, we need to make sure that water from irrigated land does not go back to the rivers or lakes because it would contaminate the lakes with chemicals used in pesticides and fertilisers,” warned Colette Ruhamya, the director general of REMA.
“We should bear in mind that the same lakes are likely to be used as sources of drinking water,” she added.
According to her, emphasis should be put on drip irrigation, as a means of using less water and avoiding pollution from agro-inputs through leaching and erosion.
A 2011 report by the Ministry of Natural resources warned that increasing pollution from agro-inputs, including ammonia, nitrate, and phosphate and pesticide residues was affecting groundwater locally and the ability of ecosystems to naturally purify water.