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Protecting Lake Rweru is one of the resilience solutions to climate change


Nov 16, 2021

BUJUMBURA November 15th (ABP) – Kirundo province (northern Burundi) is one of the country’s provinces hardest hit by the recurring consequences of climate change, the most alarming of which is water shortage. That is when the people of that province is 99% farmers, the municipalities of Busoni, Kirundo and Bugabira being the most affected, said the governor of that province, Albert Hatungimana.

According to the governor of this province, that problem has been observed by the government, which has made a commitment and helped that province to cope with it through resilience projects in the face of that phenomenon.

One of the achievements concerned the protection of Lake Rweru. Mr. Hatungimana noted that this protection consisted of the separation of the buffer zone, over 50 meters from the cultivable zone. In the perimeter of the buffer zone that stretches all along the lake on the Kirundo province side, trees have been planted to generate vegetation. For the governor of this province, this could give the population the capacity for resilience in the face of the problem of food insecurity.

He cited the number of fish caught following their return and multiplication within the perimeter of the protected buffer zone. Mr. Hatungimana noted that endangered species returned to namely “ikuki”, “imamba”, “inonzi”, “imare”, “isamaki” which were no longer found in this lake, which also generated re-entries in the funds of the commune.

Alongside that project, the governor of that province mentioned the accompanying measures by training the people in village irrigation techniques. Around this lake on the Ruheha village, in the Nyagisozi area very close to the lake, the riparian population has been organized to grow onions irrigated with the waters of Lake Rweru.

At the time of the descent, those people were engaged in the maintenance of the onion fields and the irrigation with the water of this lake on a perimeter of fields of approximately 3 hectares.

The other benefits of that protection are the return of other animals that had fled because we had farmed on the lake and they could not feed themselves. Here, Mr. Hatungimana made mention of the hippos that had migrated to Rwanda, numbering around 20 heads. But also, birds that have returned because agro-forestry trees were planted in the buffer zone, including an aquatic tree “umurera” preferred by birds to build nests. The return of these birds has had an impact on increasing fish production because their waste is prized food for fish.

Despite those encouraging results in the direction of resilience to climate change, Mr. Hatungimana indicated that challenges arising from this same project are felt. In this regard, he noted the destruction of the environment by the cutting of trees to dry the fish which is exported to the city of Bujumbura itself to the Congo. For him, the rate of consumption of these cut trees is far higher compared to the rate of those that are planted.

Mr. Hatungimana called on the partners for their support in the good conservation of fish that does not degrade the environment in order to compensate for this problem of deforestation. To the same partners, he appealed to support the Kirundo province in educating fishermen on the use of regulatory nets that do not destroy fish fry but also to provide fishermen on Lake Rweru with that appropriate fishing equipment.

With the return of animals including the hippopotamus, Mr. Hatungimana spoke of incidents that were noticed of destruction of fields but also a risk of attack on the local people. In that regard, he called on the local population to respect the buffer zone.

Compared to growing onions, he has found that irrigation techniques are on board, using fuel that is not always available and that can be purchased at gas stations that are found around 40 km from the shores of Lake Rweru. He called on potential partners to train the local people but also for support with appropriate and adapted irrigation equipment that bypasses all the problems mentioned. In the same vein, he called for support for onion growers for better conservation and marketing of that product as this province is the 2nd onion producer after Kayanza.

Lake Rweru is approximately 100 square kilometers, 18 kilometers long by 14.5 kilometers wide, a minimum depth of 2.1 kilometers and a maximum of 3.9 kilometers (Wikipedia data). It is bounded on the Burundi side by the commune of Kirundo province, Giteranyi commune in Muyinga province and Bugesera province on the Rwandan side.