JICA partners with Japanese private sector to strengthen economic development

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Professor Ishii visiting macadamia field in Karenge sector in Rwamagana

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is partnering with Organic Solutions Japan (OSJ), a sister company to Rwanda Nut Company Ltd, to promote organic farming by using organic fertilizers in Rwanda to nurture macadamia nut industry to become one of the main agricultural products for export in Rwanda.

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Promoting private sector- led growth in Africa was one of the priorities highlighted at the previous Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development( TICAD) V&VI. The need for this sector- led growth especially for one that is driven by the broad-based manufacturing, service, and agro related industry sectors has become even greater. To that end, JICA has been working together with Japanese private sector to invest and support the development of the private sector in Africa.

Macadamia nut farmers in Rwanda are set to benefit from a new project that targets to boost the eco-system of macadamia farming through active use of beneficial microbes for soil and plants such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, as well as symbiotic partner plants and organic pesticides. The project thus aims to actualize safe and sustainable farming without using excessive chemicals in Rwanda.

Rwanda is among the few countries with suitable climate conditions for macadamia growing in the world.

“Some time back we learnt that Rwanda has got 80,000 macadamia nut trees reportedly grown but not utilized. That’s when we decided to come in and boost this sector,” says the Managing Director of OSJ, Hideya Komori.

The demand for macadamia nuts is increasing every year, and its global supply is not able to catch up with the demand, there has been a shortage of supply every year before the beginning of the harvest season. Hence there will be an opportunity to Rwanda. First of all, Rwanda’s climate condition is among few countries in the world which is suitable for macadamia cultivation as mentioned. Secondly, the Rwanda-grown macadamia nuts taste surprisingly good giving it a great potential to become a major production area, however, export production volume remain very small (40t / 97.5t).

Even though Rwanda has potential to be a great exporter of the nuts, as no organic farming methodology has yet been established to better control the pest outbreak and poor plant growth, general farmers remain exposed to unstable crop output, or at best, use conventional chemical synthetic pesticides in a haphazard manner. The establishment of improved measures is thus needed. The new project aims at diffusing the use of beneficial microbes, organic pesticides and organic fertilizer for sustainable and environmentally friendly rural development with the active support of Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB).

According to Komori, Rwanda will benefit from the project in many ways as the soils will not only be used for growing nuts, but will in the process be rehabilitated.

Komori says the project will benefit middle-class farmers, low-income earners working in the plantation, low and middle income earners working in the macadamia nuts processing plant as it intends to employ farmers for farm field operations and management and train them.

Secondly on capacity building, they will organize seminars on the importance of organic farming. The seminars will be aimed at developing the knowledge on organic cultivation of macadamia nuts among the agricultural extension workers belonging to relevant Rwandan government institutions.

“OSJ plans to verify the effectiveness of its own organic farming technologies using mycorrhizal fungi, other beneficial microbes, organic pesticides and organic fertilizer which promotes the growth of crops without causing soil exhaustion” Komori told the New Times.

According to the chief advisor of the project Professor Ishii, the project aims at developing a plan to disseminate locally adapted organic farming technologies, which meet the export standards based on the results of the verification and use of fungicides.

The project shall be implemented in Karongi District and Rwamagana District targeting middle-class farmers, low-income earners working in the plantation, low and middle income earners working in the macadamia nuts processing plant; for a period of four years from the day of the signing of the contract between OSJ and JICA.

Macadamia is excellent for use as a bakery ingredient, or to create economically priced retail snack packs. Its oil has one of the highest levels of mono unsaturated fats and contains no cholesterol.

It is also known as a rich source of energy because 100 g of nuts provide about 718 calories/100 g, which is one of the highest calorific values among nuts.

With the current two processing and exporting companies of macadamia; namely Rwanda Nut Company Ltd and Norlega Macadamia Rwanda Ltd, estimates indicate that in ten years the production from 5,000 ha will be providing more than 200 million USD per year.

Macadamia commonly known as ‘Gold nut’ was introduced in Rwanda in early 1980’s but its production has not been expanding. In 2011, a study for the feasibility of Macadamia Development and Processing showed that Rwanda has great potential and can financially benefit from growing this crop.