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How Green Gicumbi Project is strengthening climate resilience in vulnerable communities

Before 2019, farmers from Rushaki sector of Gicumbi district used to count huge losses due to soil erosion that was usually affecting their crops.

However, this has since changed. Today, farmers are smiling to the bank thanks to the $32 million Green Gicumbi Project that has been invested in mitigating soil erosion and its effects.

The project implemented by Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) was financed by Green Climate Fund (GCF) to build climate resilience communities in sectors of Rubaya, Cyumba, Kaniga, Mukarange, Rushaki, Shangasha, Manyagiro, Byumba, and Bwisige.

Controlled soil erosion, thus increasing productivity

Nicolas Gumisiriza, a farmer from Rushaki sector who is the president of KOPABIMU cooperative which has over 355 members, testified that before embarking on terracing, the land was always affected by erosion.
“Before the project’’, fertile soil and crops would be eroded and washed away into the valleys and water bodies. The roads were always blocked by landslides. Residents were food insecure. Today, the Green Gicumbi project is addressing all these issues concurrently,” he said.

Green Gicumbi project, through Community Adaptation Facility (CAF), also supported farmers with funding to multiply Irish Potatoes, wheat, and bean seedlings that are climate resilient in the area.
Gumisiriza said that the farmers used to harvest between one tonne and two tonnes of Irish Potato per hectare due to erosion.

However, today, he said they are harvesting 16 tonnes of Irish Potatoes per hectare thanks to the project interventions.

“Bean production has increased by several folds, from 200kgs per hectare to about four tonnes per hectare. We are now food secure. Cultivating on terraces has tremendously reduced the effects of erosion. We also plant fodder on risers of the terraced land for our cows and they also provide manure to increase production,” he said.

“Each farmer saves 10 percent of their harvest that goes to their cooperative for development,” he said.
He added that they also have warehouses that help them store harvests and eventually sell their produce in bulk to a secured good market and middlemen are no longer exploiting farmers.

“Last year, I planted 10kgs of bean seedlings on terraced land and harvested 300kgs of beans. But before the Green Gicumbi project intervened, I could not get all this harvest due to soil erosion. The yields have increased thanks to the bean seed multiplication scheme,” said Marie Claudine Tumwekwase, another farmer.

So far, 12, 000 hectares of land are under erosion control (with both 600 hectares of Radical terraces and 600 hectares of progressive and radical terraces) over the past three years. Agroforestry trees were established on 4,801 hectares of land.

Jean Marie Vianney Kagenza, the coordinator of the six-year Green Gicumbi project, told The New Times that “You can’t build climate resilience without enhancing economic resilience of residents. We are empowering smallholder farmers to become food secure by adopting climate resilience agriculture and better seeds. They have to become professional seed multipliers through project support.”

He added: “They were grouped in cooperatives and they also got jobs in the project implementation. Their participation is key to ensure the sustainability of the project outcomes.”

Over 23,000 jobs in nine sectors were created as a result of the Green Gicumbi project under the component of climate resilience and watershed protection.

Climate-resilient tea

Farmers whose tea plantations were awash in wetlands now have hope and confidence in having enormous harvests after the Green Gicumbi project supported them to grow tea on the hillside.

“Over 150 hectares of tea in marshlands were affected by floods which plunged Mulindi tea factory into losses,” said Emile Nsengumuremyi, an expert in soil erosion control and climate resilient agriculture in the Green Gicumbi project.

He said that tea on the hillside is resilient to floods, reduces erosion and is known for its preferred quality.
“Farmers will be supported to set up more nurseries so that more farmers can get tea seedlings to be planted on the hillside,” he said.

At least 50 hectares on the hillside were planted with more than 600, 000 tea seedlings.
“I had tea in the marshland from which I could generate 400 Kilogrammes in 10 days selling one Kilogramme at over Rw100. But all the tea trees were flooded. I am lucky that the Green Gicumbi project helped me to plant tea on a hillside on 50 acres to recover from the loss. It will no longer face soil erosion and floods,” said Alphonsine Mukarwego, a farmer from Kaniga sector, Mulindi cell.

Benjamin Yego, Manager of Mulindi tea factory said that the quality of new tea varieties grown on the hillside will attract good prices on the international market.

“The tea planted on the hillside is a new variety with better quality when you compare it with tea in marshlands,” he said.

Climate resilient settlement

The third component of the Green Gicumbi project is “Climate Resilient Settlements”. So far 40 climate-resilient houses have been constructed and occupied by most vulnerable beneficiaries from high-risk zones in Rubaya sector, while 60 more houses are under construction in Kaniga sector, Mulindi cell to host the most vulnerable families living in high-risk zones in the same sector. Their construction progress is currently at 70% and construction activities are expected to be completed by July 2023.

Eng. Fulgence Dusabimana, in charge of infrastructure development in the Green Gicumbi project, said that the climate resilience of the settlements lies in the fact that the main construction materials are obtained taking into account environmental protection.

As a matter of example, modern bricks are burnt using bio-waste instead of wood, in a modern kiln not emitting much and using energy efficiently; the area of extraction of the clay should also have a rehabilitation plan. The design of the houses of the settlement lies in the optimization of energy consumption, indoor air quality, and sustainability of the construction materials with minimum maintenance cost.

The public lighting is exclusively solar-powered. Water from the roofs is harvested in big underground ferro-cement tanks for use for home consumption and small-scale irrigation which allows erosion control in the settlement. Human waste management is done using waterless composting toilets that allow for turning waste into organic manure instead of caring about soil contamination.

In rainwater harvesting, the project supports beneficiaries through construction and installation of rainwater harvesting tanks. So far over 135 rainwater harvesting tanks have been constructed at the household level while 33 underground tanks and cisterns have been constructed for institutions identified as having the highest erosion in the project intervention area with a total harvesting capacity of 3,028,000 Litres to date.

With regard to runoff management, 32 hectares of infiltration ditches have been established for runoff water retention to avoid erosion on agricultural land which increases the soil moisture and therefore productivity.

In gullies rehabilitation, 4,642 live check-dams have also been constructed to reduce the water virulence and retain the erosion and therefore rehabilitating biologically the gullies. Finally, more than 30 kilometers of existing water channels are planted with bamboo, trees, and shrubs for embankment protection.

Sustainable forest management

To ensure Sustainable forest management and sustainable energy, Green Gicumbi project has rehabilitated 1,107 hectares of degraded forests in the past three years as well as disseminated 19,900 clean cookstoves in a bid to reduce pressure on the forests and reduce carbon emissions.
Over 300 modern beehives were distributed to six cooperatives and 40 beekeepers were trained and 10 domestic biogas were installed while 40 energy-efficient institution large stoves were also installed in schools.

Felix Rurangwa, the Forestry Specialist at Green Gicumbi project said that before rehabilitating the forests, one hectare could provide between 30 and 50 cubic meters only.

“The rehabilitated forests are expected to provide between 200 and 300 cubic meters per hectare due to applied forest management best practices such as tree species adapted to local conditions, establishing water retention ditches, grouping beneficiaries into cooperatives and training them on silvicultural techniques,” he said’’.

He said the rehabilitated forests are expected to provide different products and services such as electric poles, timber, and reducing carbon emissions.
“The consolidated forests are well managed and the project will link farmers to investors for good returns and better management.

The farmers were grouped in Private Forest Management Units. Each unit manages between 20 and 30 hectares.

“FONERWA established a Community Adaptation Facility that is supporting the communities to implement environmental and income-generating projects related to beekeeping and tree nursery preparation,” he said.
“I have to manage my half-hectare forest as I expect high returns. I was harvesting Rwf100, 000 from a big area of trees, but I have realized that Rwf100, 000 is the price for only a few trees,” said Jean Damascene Twagirayezu, a farmer from the Rukomo sector.

Emilienne Mukakaboyi, the other farmer added: “A small area where I could only get Rwf 50, 000, I am expecting to get Rwf 200, 000 after being rehabilitated. We were also given improved cook stoves to reduce high dependency on biomass energy hence posing pressure on our forests.”

Energy efficiency in Mulindi tea factory

To promote energy efficiency in the tea processing sector, Mulindi tea factory was supported to reduce biomass energy use through different interventions that reduced pressure on forests and carbon emissions.

At least 40 variable speed drives (VSD) were installed in Mulindi tea factory to ensure energy efficiency. The VSDs help to regulate the power consumption depending on the quantity of tea loaded into troughs. One Tea dryer and one fuel wood drying hangar were also installed in the factory to contribute to both energy saving and reducing carbon emissions.

“Using well-dried wood reduces the quantity of fuel wood as compared to when they are not well-dried. For scale-up purposes, we also trained 5 tea factories to ensure they also embrace energy efficiency practices in their respective Factories,” said Rurangwa.

Benjamin Yego, the Manager of Mulindi Tea Factory which produces 12 % of the country’s tea production, said: “With the Green Gicumbi interventions, we are saving about 17 % of firewood while 15% of electricity is also being saved.’’

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