By: EMMANUEL NTIRENGANYA, courtesy of www.newtimes.co.rw.
The effects of climate change have been felt through destruction of crops, and property by floods and prolonged drought.
Floods and landslides have also killed people, damaged crops and drought has posed a serious threat to the welfare of people resulting in food insecurity both on national, regional and global level.
These are some of the effects of climate change-induced disasters and given the severity of the issue, scholars and other experts are looking for science and research-based innovative ways to prevent, mitigate the disasters and their risks, with the main focus put on harnessing climate change.
Information from the Ministry for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), shows that from January to May 9, at least 81 people died, 74 were injured, some 1,398 houses destroyed and over 1,500 hectares of crops got damaged as a result of disasters mainly heavy rain, winds, as well as landslides.
Speaking on Thursday during the 3rd International conference on environment, energy, disaster and development (ICEED 2016), Antoine Ruvebana, the Permanent Secretary at MIDIMAR said that there are about 11 types of disasters in Rwanda and the prevalent ones are five, including; flooding, landslides, fire, lightening and drought.
“What causes disasters can also benefit the country’s economy once well harnessed. If there is prolonged dry spell that cause drought, it can be used to generate solar power; if there is too much water that carries away our houses, it can be trapped to irrigate crops,” he said.
According to information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the country wants to increase irrigated area from some 40,000 hectares currently to 100,000 by 2018. About 600,000 ha need irrigation.
The one-day meeting was held under the theme “Future we want: Sustainability for all”, and attracted policy leaders, experts, scholars and stakeholders in environmental protection, energy and disaster management.
The Director General for Science, Technology and Research at the Ministry of Education, Dr Marie-Christine Gasingirwa said the development of the industry depends on the sufficiency of energy.
She said science, research and innovation should be used to transform the environment and find solutions to problems of concern in the society, adding that they can ensure disaster preparedness.
“Through research, you are able predict. In collaboration through research and information sharing everywhere, you can establish a pattern, you can be able to predict and then prepare for disasters that are to come, for disaster mitigation and management,” she noted.
Vincent de Paul Kabalisa, the Head of Water Resources Department at the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA) said there is need for technologies to allow plants maintain their water and minimize evaporation such that crops can survive and thrive even in dry season.
He said the evaporation of water in agriculture sector ranges between 70% and 80% [in dry season] and the issue is severe mainly in the Eastern Province, like in Bugesera District.
He said there is need for sustainable land use to reduce evaporation of water in agriculture.
“Our farmers need technology that will allow them to maintain water in their fields for long period so that their crops can get water even in the dry season,” he said.
He said water is not only for drinking, but rather for other purposes including irrigation, navigation and power generation.
The current total installed generation capacity in Rwanda is 186 MW and the government wants the capacity to reach 563 MW by 2017/18.
He added that through research, they must find ways to harvest water and make sure it is used for sustainable irrigation scheme, adding that farmers’ dams should be increased for irrigation, hydropower and flood control.
Dr Veronique Tumusabyimana, Deputy Vice Chancellor (academics and research) at the Independent Institute of Lay Adventists of Kigali (INILAK) said quality education and thorough research can help disaster management policies run smoothly and yield good results as they get implemented through a well-informed perspective.
The conference was organised by INILAK in collaboration with MIDMAR.