EUCORD to help maize farmers increase productivity

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Maize farmers attend the training in Kayonza District. (Stephen Rwembeho)

European Cooperative for Rural Development (EUCORD) will supply high yield maize seeds and train farmers to increase maize productivity.

The project targets to offer free services to over 30,000 farmers in the districts of Kayonza and Rwamagana.

EUCORD that began operations in Rwanda in 2013 aims to increase food security and improve the livelihoods of maize producers in Rwanda.

In Kayonza District, as part of preparations for season 2016A, it started training hundreds of farmers on soil preparation, planting, fertilizer use and post-harvest management.

According to Fabien Ngoga, the Project Coordinator, the program will help farmers improve productivity as well as the quality and quantity of their crops.

Ngoga said that HEINEKEN ,through its local representative BRALIRWA, had committed to buy farmers’ maize as an ingredient for local brewing families.

“The current maize production is not more than two tons per hectare…this is far from expectations. We want to help farmers to increase it to at least four tons per hectare. An estimated 50% of the maize used in brewing in Rwanda is imported…this percentage must be reduced,” he said.

He said with the help of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Heineken International, EUCORD aims to improve the livelihoods of thousands of households.

“Demand for maize is very high, but we only refer to quality maize. It can only be used for brewing when it is in category one or two. So, the issue of quality is also a major concern. The sad reality however is that at least 30% of the produce is lost in post harvest management. This is a trend we want to reverse,” he said.

Ngoga added that the project was also working to enable farmers collaborate with local microfinance organisations, which allows farmers to obtain short-term loans to buy better seeds and fertilizers.

“By developing the maize sector and by linking thousands of maize farmers to a guaranteed market, the project will help create a sustainable source of income to the rural poor, as well as affordable food to the urban poor”.

Under the Crop Intensification Program, the government aims to increase agricultural productivity in high-potential food crops and ensuring food security and self-sufficiency.

Bernard Musabyimana, a maize grower in Rwinkwavu sector commended the efforts to increase productivity, noting that it would improve their livelihood.

“We currently produce little per hectare, just two tons or less…anything leading to increase productivity is welcome,” he said.

He however said few farmers were ready to get loans from banks, citing a number of cases that ended in tears.

“Ours is rain fed agriculture…Most of our area is prone to long droughts. We get good yields once in three seasons…sometimes the 3 seasons end up with no yields.

So if a farmer has a loan, things end up ugly…auctioning of property as we don’t have insurance, is the order of the day. So we tend to keep away from agriculture loans,” he said.