. . . And Then the Rains Came: Coping in Kajaga Village

Source: IRIN

During these heavy rains, small stock really suffer.  Source: IRIN

Unusually heavy rains have caused havoc across much of east Africa, displacing thousands of people and damaging important infrastructure…

In Burundi, flood-affected areas include the northwestern region of Bubanza, Bujumbura City and the plains of Imbo along the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Source: IRIN-In East Africa, heavy rains test emergency preparedness

The ‘Plains of Imbo’ –  wetlands to the east of the Rusizi River delta – that’s where we are.  The ongoing rains have been devistating to food and cash crops, as well as to homes and other constructions.  Below are pictures both of normal and flooded conditions, with a bit of commentary.

With the ongoing rains the past month, not only have both the unharvested and harvested rice been severely damaged, but also houses in the village - many of which, being made of mud brick, collapse.  I took this picture a few years ago, during a similar overly-heavy rainy season.

With the ongoing rains the past month, not only have both the unharvested and harvested rice been severely damaged, but also houses in the village – many of which, being made of mud brick, collapse. I took this picture a few years ago, during a similar overly-heavy rainy season.

While some are claiming that these rains are associated with climate change, it should be emphasized that very heavy rains – on an irregular basis – are a characteristic of the area.  Whether or not the current rains are linked to climate change is thus a moot question.

Looking east along the Imbo towards Bujumbura, the two blocks of construction are the village of Kajaga.  The original village is the block in back, while the front block, together with the line of construction along the lake, are all within the last five years or so - since the deminishing of hostilities.  Picture is taken during the rainy season, and stands of water can be seen throughout the wetlands, halting further constructions.  Source: notructingaway.blogspot.com

Looking east along the Imbo towards Bujumbura, the two blocks of construction are the village of Kajaga. The original village is the block in back, while the front block, together with the line of construction along the lake, are all within the last five years or so – since the diminishing of hostilities. The picture is taken during a normal rainy season, and stands of water can be seen throughout the wetlands, halting further constructions – a blessing for rice cultivation and other crops. Source: notructingaway.blogspot.com

Tending rice during a normal wet season; mountains of the Congo can be seen to the right.  I took this period before all of the construction took place in the Imbo.

Tending rice during a normal wet season; mountains of the Congo that rise from the shores of Lake Tanganyika can be seen in the upper right. I snapped this picture before all the construction took place in the Imbo.

Collecting rice straw - an important supplement for use with livestock and for sales.  Picture taken about the same time as the one above (c. 2005)

Collecting rice straw – an important supplement for use with livestock and for sales. Picture taken about the same time and in the same fields as the one above (c. 2008).  Now, all the bananas (in the background) have been removed to make way for houses – which can extend about that far into the wetlands.

Once the rains are over and the water in the Imbo subsides, crops can be planted next to any remaining rice.

Once the rains are over and the water in the Imbo subsides, crops can be planted where the rice was grown.

Harvested rice is spread out to dry, which can be a very tricky business during the rainy season!

Harvested rice is spread out to dry, which can be a very tricky business during the rainy season!

As soon as rain threatens, rice is quickly bundled up in large sacks that are covered with tarps.

The indigenous Ankole cattle are not much bothered by the flooding, as long as they can find a dry spot at night.  Source: nakedchefs.com

The indigenous Ankole cattle are not much bothered by the flooding, as long as they can find a dry spot at night. Source: nakedchefs.com

Whether rice in Burundi?

The rice planted in Burundi , including the Imbo wetlands, is all introduced – in the 19th Century by Swahili and arab traders, for their own use, and more recently by international research institutes (primarily IRRI) and disseminated through extension and NGOs.

IRRI has recently introduced two strains of rice for trials and distribution in Burundi, to address growing demand.  See here.

Although there were strain(s) of indigenous rice in the country – and according to local inhabitants these still can be found – as far as I’ve been able to determine these have been neither characterized nor investigated through trials.  If I’m incorrect, please let me know!

Map of african rindiginous rices - both domesti and wild.  Source:  National Academy of Sciences.

Map of african indigenous rices – both domestic and wild. Source: National Academy of Sciences.

Other blog entries on rice can be found here:

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About diana buja

A recent group photo at a training course for veterinarians and vet technicians here in Burundi. I discuss in French with some Kirundi and have also a Kirundi translator to help with technical aspects ... Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-East, African rice, Climate Change, East central Africa, Humanitarian Assistance, Livestock, Mud brick houses, Rusizi River ^ Wetlands and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to . . . And Then the Rains Came: Coping in Kajaga Village

  1. Pingback: . . . And Then the Rains Came: Coping in Kajaga Village | AN EVERYDAY TRAVELER

  2. ritaroberts says:

    Thank you for sharing this post which I found not only interesting but learned a lot about floods and flood plantation I never knew. As for the pictures of the Ankole Cattle they are magnificent.

    Like

    • dianabuja says:

      Glad that you found it interesting – and yes, our Ankole are truely magnificent! And have traditionally featured in various ceremonies. Hm. Think I’ll do a blog about that…

      Like

  3. Wow, those Ankole cattle have impressive horns…

    AV

    Like

  4. ergamenis says:

    If I am not clicking on “like” in this entry it is purely because I’d feel like cynically enjoying what is happening there… But I surely thank you for sharing the news, views and customary practices from this unknown to many region. The flood-plantations are so similar to the seluka agriculture along the Nile! Don’t you agree? Allow me, however, to ask you more critically the following: heavy rains might be the norm in many places, but floods are usually the result of some mistake in the settlement pattern, the irrigation schemes, the blockage of river beds, the construction of dams and so on. What happened there??

    Like

    • dianabuja says:

      Good observations and questions.
      As for the flood plains – yes I do agree, the farming in the Imbo along Lake Tanganyika is indeed similar to seluka flood plain agriculture along the Nile – though here, of course, it is directly rain-based. As well, after the falling water table, the under soil retains large amounts of moisture even in quite dry weather that ‘feeds’ the crops, as can be seen in the photo above. I imagine the same is true along the Nile Floodplains. And of course this was also the case with floodplain farming in the Egypt Nile since pre-dynastic times.
      As for the *causes* of destructive floods here, they are generally complex: Environmental degradation is a #1 factor, and is associated with ill-thought-out settlement patterns (look in the aerial photo, how – as soon as the fighting began to slow – people grabbed flood plain land in areas near the village and along the lake that had never been settled before.) There were reasons these areas were not settled before – periodic floods, amongst them.
      Quickly increasing population is a serious factor in a small country like Burundi, with a population growth of over 3% a year and little incentive to curtail – from church or state. Management of a barrage further up the Rusizi river has also caused serious flooding from time to time – that is manmade. But people keep coming back… And there is always the abiding faith in Technology, as a never-ending source of bandaids and other panaceas.
      Perhaps I’ll blog about all of this – any other thoughts? Thanks for yoursj!
      P.S. – I’ve added a bit about rice, at the end of the blog.

      Like

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