Rice farmers in Southern Province have been urged to take good care of wetlands so as to get better harvest.
The call was made on Friday by Alphonse Munyentwari the Southern Province governor, during the national celebrations to mark World Wetlands Day in Muhanga District.
“A few years ago, almost 100 per cent of the rice consumed locally was imported, but now because of improved agricultural practice, this has been reduced by at least 50 per cent,” he said.
He also called on the farmers not to only rely on rice growing but also venture into other activities, saying that diversity creates wealth.
“You should not only wait for proceeds from rice harvests alone, venture into piggery and other activities,” said Munyentwari, who advised farmers financially challenged to seek loans from banks for start-up capital.
Rose Mukankomeje the Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema) said marking the day provides a good platform to promote awareness on the proper use and safeguarding wetlands.
“All marshlands belong to government, so no one should settle or set up activity in them with out seeking clearance,” she said.
Jean Claude Habimana, a member of the taskforce on irrigation and mechanization under the Ministry of agriculture, urged residents not to only rely on rain but also take advantage of the water trapped in wetlands to irrigate their farms.
“It is surprising that some people let drought destroy their crops yet they are in the vicinity of such major water catchment areas,” he said in reference to the Rugeramigozi wetland, where the event took place.
Farmers speak out
Jean Pierre Majyambere, a member of KIABR rice growers co-operative based in Shyogwe sector in Muhanga said that before Rema and the Ministry of Agriculture came to their rescue, harvest were poor.
“We used to harvest about 300 kilogrammes of rice from about 120 acres, now we harvest about 4.5 tonnes per season from the same surface area,” Majyambere said.
He added that in the near future, they target output of about 10 tonnes per acre.
Jean Mugimba, also a resident of Shyogwe, however, complained about low income from rice sales.
“A kilogramme of rice goes for just Rwf190, we would be happy if at least it is increased to Rwf250,” Mugimba says.
He also decried expensive fertilizers, and called upon government to find a way of subsidising.
“A kilogramme of fertilisers goes for about Rwf600, which is not affordable, given the fact that our harvest is bought at a very low price," he said.