More than 1000 farmers in Rusizi District who incurred losses after maize seeds they planted failed to yield will be compensated, officials have agreed.
The awaited compensation follows complaints from farmers in 13 sectors of Rusizi in the Western Province who appealed for intervention after registering losses.
The farmers say the maize reached the growth stage, known in Kinyarwanda as ‘guheka’, but only look beautiful and overgrown by appearance with no corns.
Léoncie Kankindi, the Rusizi Vice-Mayor in charge of Finance and Economic Development, told The New Times last week they have so far registered 3,592 farmers who planted 13 tonnes and 240 kilograms on 529.6 hectares.
Dr Telesphore Ndabamenye, the Head of Crop Production and Food Security at Rwanda Agriculture Board, told The New Times last week that it was in discussions with seed multipliers to compensate maize farmers who were supplied ‘Hybrid 629’ maize seeds.
He explained that the maize failed to grow because Rusizi soils were not favourable for the planted variety, which is normally planted in higher altitude areas.
A non-profit agricultural organisation One Acre Fund/Tubura, which had supplied the seed variety, has agreed to compensate the farmers, he said.
Speaking to The New Times, Evariste Bagambiki, Tubura Rwanda Communications Manager, said their field visits revealed that up to 1,050 farmers needed to be compensated.
“We are compensating affected farmers who purchased H629 variety. Their refund is calculated based on the cost of seeds, fertiliser, and partial value of harvest. We will spend Rwf16m on refund to 1,050 clients affected,” he said.
What went wrong?
Bagambiki explained that prior to the 17A planting season, national seed supply was severely disrupted since the majority of seeds arrived into the country very late, and there was insufficient supply to fulfil all distributors’ orders.
Tubura originally ordered a seed variety (PAN4M21) that grows well in both highlands and lowlands, he said.
He said due to the seed shortages in the country, Tubura was unable to deliver this variety since it did not receive the full quantity of seeds that it had ordered on behalf of clients.
It, therefore, resorted ‘to providing a substitute variety’ (H629) reserved for only farmers in high-altitude areas, he said.
“From the field reports, we understand that some farmers from these areas planted H629 in lowland fields (where it was not supposed to be planted). We estimate that a total of 32 hectares were affected. As expected, H629 did not perform well in lowland areas and it takes 2-3 months longer than the expected period to mature.”
Bagambiki said the area has a mixture of both highlands and lowlands, which was hard for the supplier to control.
“Some farmers ended up planting the variety where it was not supposed to be planted, but since the farmers are our clients, we agreed to compensate them,” he explained.
Bagambiki said that in addition to this refund, the farmers’ loans have crop insurance.
“We expect that the insurance companies, after assessing the issue, might inject in more support. Based on the insurance company’s calculations of loss, farmers may also receive an insurance payout,” he added.
He said they are making changes to ensure that this does not happen again.
“In the future, we will only distribute seeds if they are enough for all farmers in a given cell; if we do not have suitable seeds for all farmers, we will not deliver them at all,” he emphasized.
Smallholder farmers who spoke to The New Times welcomed the compensation plan although it was difficult to tell the exact loss.
“I had acquired 10kg that I planted in three pieces of land. We are told that they will be compensating us Rwf5, 500 per kg. Maize did not grow. We will only give the stems to domestic animals,” Jacqueline Nyiramabanga, a farmer from Butare sector told The New Times.
Jean Niyonsenga, another farmer in Rwambogo cell, said: “We thought no one could agree to compensate us. We did not know what happened to our seeds. Next time they should give us seeds they are sure about.”
He said he grew the seeds on two pieces of land and was expecting to harvest over 150 kilogrammes.
He said that although the planned compensation could not cover all losses and wasted time, it is a relief to them.