Clinton Development Initiative will today complete the process of leasing 213 hectares from farmers in Nyagatare District as the organisation rolls out a large scale agri-business in the area.
The land is being leased for 20 years from some 235 small and medium holder farmers who are grouped into KABUKU Cooperative.
Members of the cooperative are set to receive Rwf560,000 per hectare every year. In the first payment, they will be paid two years in advance and yearly thereafter.
The agreement to formalise the 20 year lease between the farmers’ cooperative and the Foundation will be signed today in Nyagatare District.
Under the terms of agreement, farmers will not be required to vacate their homes as opposed to other lease models.
Jean Paul Ndagijimana, the country director of Clinton Development Initiative, said in an interview that the agreement will see members of the cooperative get employment opportunities, provided with access to financing and access to farming inputs including, fertilisers, and assured of a ready market of their output.
“Other than the advance payment on the land leases, the farmers and members of the cooperative will benefit from employment opportunities where they will be paid higher than the market prices and be provided with access to farming inputs, financing and market,” he said.
He added that the funds for payout were ready for disbursement to farmers as soon as the agreement is signed later today while most of the farming equipment and inputs had already been imported while the rest on transit.
According to Ndagijimana, the initiative is aiming at scaling up the coverage of lease, agri-business and outreach to over 900 hectares to reach over 1200 members of the cooperative.
The initiative will prioritise soya beans, maize as well as horticulture farming with the aim of supplying local processing plants that are currently operating below capacity as well as develop the export market for horticulture produces.
The project comes at a time when the government is keen on scaling up the involvement of farmers in agribusiness to increase the sector’s profitability and expand the country’s export base.
Officials from the institution say that the move seeks to improve the livelihoods of farmers in the areas as well as passing on the latest skills and practices in agriculture.
Prior to the initiative, the government had invested in putting up irrigation infrastructure in the district which made it more viable for such ventures.
Walker Morris, the CEO of the Clinton Development Initiative, said that their overall objective is to work with local farmers to improve their productivity and earnings which they can then invest in education and healthcare.
“This will be done by availing quality inputs and introducing them to improved farming techniques. We will also provide access to markets and ensure that they are in direct contact with buyers, consequently giving them a higher selling price,” he noted.
He said that successful implementation of the model would probably lead to increased interest and possible scaling up of the model to other districts and cooperatives.
Commenting on the development, Tony Nsanganira, the State Minister of Agriculture, said that the government was keen to see such partnerships rolled out to promote agri-business across the country.
The minister said that the successful implementation of the model, the first of its kind in the country, would pave way for replication of similar projects across the country.
“We are always urging farmers to come together and work in cooperatives as it increases their attractiveness to inventors and partners. This is one of the benefits of working in cooperatives,” he said.
He called on the farmers and cooperative members to save the proceeds of the leases and re-invest them in other income generating activities to improve their livelihoods.
“We should also look at this initiative as more than just leasing land and getting paid in return. We should look at the lives being improved, the skills acquired in the process,” Nsanganira said.
Members of the cooperative who spoke to this paper said that, among the benefits they were looking out for were skills transfer from the partnership.
A majority of them admitted that they were initially hesitant to the deal largely because of low understanding of the initiative.
Grace Uwimana, the acting president of the cooperative, said that, going forward, farmers would reduce uncertainty of their incomes.
A similar initiative is underway in Malawi and Tanzania covering a total of over 4,000 hectares.
The Clinton Foundation’s work in Rwanda involves integrating commercial farms and other agribusinesses with smallholder outreach to increase smallholder farmers’ access to local markets and enable them to participate equitably in markets.
Last year, in December, the Foundation, in partnership with Visa, a global payments technology company, rolled out an initiative to enable farmers conduct business transactions digitally.