Farmers urged to embrace agriculture mechanisation

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Mechanisation, like use of combine harvesters, reduces post-harvest losses. / Kelly Rwamapera.

SMALL farmers in Nyagatare District, Eastern Province have been urged to embrace modern methods of agriculture to improve output and produce in a sustainable manner.

George Mupenzi, the Nyagatare District mayor, said it is crucial for individual farmers and co-operatives to acquire skills in modern crop husbandry, noting that this would boost production and household incomes besides ensuring the region is food secure.

The mayor lauded Nyagatare Agro Ventures Rwanda Ltd, a commercial rice growing firm in the district, for equipping farmers in the area with improved farming techniques and creating jobs for residents in the area,” said Mupenzi.

“Many farmers have acquired new rice growing techniques from Agro Ventures. So, other big farmers should emulate this example to take the agriculture sector in the district to the next level,” he said during a recent tour of the firm’s activities.

Mupenzi added that the firm has created many jobs for residents.

Nyagatare Agro Ventures employs more than 1,000 people, including 60 permanent workers, according Vinay Krishna, the manager.

Didas Kayitare, the vice-mayor in charge of economy and development affairs, said a growing number of co-operatives and individuals in Matimba and Rukomo sectors had adopted mechanisation in their farming activities.

Speaking at the event, Krishna encouraged farmers to use organic manure, saying it helps farmers improve crop production and avoid high operational costs.

Krishna also rooted for mechanisation of the sector to increase production, adding that there is need for more agronomists to boost access to technical support for farmers. Most of the firm’s operations are mechanised, including harvesting, threshing, and cleaning of the cereal, which Krishna said minimises post-harvest losses.

The firm’s rice venture is worth billions and they plan to diversify and grow other crops like sweet potatoes, maize and vegetables, a move that will enable them to overcome the challenge of variations in soils.

“Some soils are not good for rice growing, but may be suitable for vegetables or other crops,” he added.

The firm targets to produce over 6,000 tonnes of rice this year on 550 hectares of land.

Farmers speak out

Grace Uwimana, the head of KABOKU, a cooperative of maize, beans and soya growers in Kagitumba, said agriculture mechanisation has helped them increase production and reduce post-harvest handling.

“Tractors dig deeper into the ground compared to hand hoes, which allows crop roots to easily reach all the nutrients and thus be able to withstand the impact of hot conditions, especially in the Eastern Province,” Uwimana said.

Damascene Rwamwaga, the chairman of COPRORIZ Cooperative, a group of rice growers in Ntende marshland, said farmers sometimes face the problem of water shortage, which affects harvests.