Sources

Flood And Famine: Turning African Swamps Into Fertile Farmland

In Burundi, what was once marshland is now yielding crops each harvest season.

A Burundi rice farmer
A Burundi rice farmer
Gabby Bugaga

The Cankuzo and Ruyigi marshes have been drained, and the farmers of eastern Burundi are starting to smile again.

For years, the small, dried-up tracks of land left this territory with a shortage of food and income. But the swamps have now been turned into fertile soil to plant new crops and reap much more plentiful harvests.

Locals hope the regular famines of the past will not return again.

On the road towards the border with Tanzania, the first sight that catches your eye are the beautiful green squares, carefully taken care of, where rice, cabbage, beans and other vegetables are growing.

Men and women are plowing the fields, irrigated by the canals that were created when the marshes were drained. “Five years ago, this area was a swamp full of papyrus, and therefore was useless. Now, as you can see, it’s full of agricultural opportunities,” declares Mathias Musaniwabo, a local political leader.

With the help of German investments, a large portion of these fields were converted, explains Sylvestre Muyamara, provincial head of agriculture policy. “We drained the water out of the marshes and cleared the farmable lands, we’re very proud of the result,” he said.

Stagnant water was rerouted to give life to the farmable lands that are now providing harvests every two or three months. “The exploitation of the swamps is tricky business, if you don’t drain it right, the swamps can dry up and become acidic,” explains Baptiste Sindayihebura, an expert in agricultural engineering.

This redirection of the marshes was a blessing for the local farmers who could no longer sustain their families from produce on their lands, and were increasingly choosing to migrate to border towns inside Tanzania. This was what finally pushed local leaders to start looking for solutions, says Leon Barikwinshi, communal agronomist.

Eat and sell

“We were planting 10 kilograms of seeds and only reaping five bean plants. Before that, we could harvest enough to eat and even sell some,” says Mwura sector leader Anselme Ntirubaruto.

The region had been fertile, but erosion was slowly ruining the land, and the essential nutritive agents were flowing down into the swamps. “I moved to Tanzania because I couldn’t produce enough to feed my kids,” says Sabine Muhagaze, mother of four, who'd cultivated bananas and sweet potatos. “We didn’t know about these opportunities, and they turned out to be very efficient. I came back two years ago, and now we couldn't be happier.”

Marcien Manirakiza, a researcher in sustainable development, says the agricultural vulnerability was caused by rocky and acidic soil, and the lingering dry season.

"As long as we’ve been living in the valley, our vegetables have been our main source of revenue. We have a healthy range of vegetables: cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes and so on,” claims 70-year-old farmer Joseph Ntakabasoba.

Some locals are now in the fruit and vegetable business thanks to these swamps. “It used to be really hard to harvest what we sowed, but now, it’s enough to meet our needs. Of course, it’s not regular, but it’s still an improvement,” says Pascal Baribesha.

Another farmer added: “Today, every one of us has a chance to live a decent life, meaning being able to eat, pay for studies, put a tin or brick roof over our heads.”

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!
Geopolitics

In Sudan, A Surprise About-Face Marks Death Of The Revolution

Ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was the face of the "stolen revolution". The fact that he accepted, out of the blue, to return at the same position, albeit on different footing, opens the door to the final legitimization of the coup.

Sudanese protesters demonstrating against the military regime in London on Nov. 20, 2021

Nesrine Malik

A little over a month ago, a military coup in Sudan ended a military-civilian partnership established after the 2019 revolution that removed President Omar al-Bashir after almost 30 years in power. The army arrested the Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and, along with several of his cabinet and other civil government officials, threw him in detention. In the weeks that followed, the Sudanese military and their partners in power, the Rapid Support Forces, moved quickly.

They reappointed a new government of “technocrats” (read “loyalists”), shut down internet services, and violently suppressed peaceful protests against the coup and its sabotaging of the 2019 revolution. During those weeks, Hamdok remained the symbol of the stolen revolution, betrayed by the military, detained illegally, unable to communicate with the people who demanded his return. In his figure, the moral authority of the counter-coup resided.

Keep reading... Show less
Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ