The Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Ildephonse Musafiri, instructed authorities in Eastern Province to start planning to establish food storage facilities in districts to prevent post-harvest losses. This was during a consultative meeting held at the provincial headquarters in Rwamagana on January 11, with agriculture value chain actors, local leaders, and large-scale buyers, among others, to discuss the preparedness of handling post-harvest losses in season A 2024 harvest. Officials predict that over 500,000 tonnes of maize will be harvested from 130,000 hectares in Eastern Province during season A, 2024, equivalent to 3.5 tonnes per hectare. The projected increase in yields in Eastern Province is attributed to improved farming techniques, increased use of fertilisers and pesticides, and favourable weather conditions that the previous season experienced, as well as cultivating 70 per cent of the available land in the province. Fixing the issue of middlemen, mobilising large-scale buyers to commit to buying the production, providing sheeting for temporary shelters, and setting up food storage facilities in districts, among others, were some of the discussed possibilities to curb post-harvest losses. “We efficiently store a third of the projected produce in Season A in 2024. There are 768 permanent drying shelters capable of storing 14,000 tonnes, yet we are expecting more than 500,000 tonnes of maize produce, which brings a gap in post-harvest shelters needed to efficiently store the projected produce,” said Jeanne Nyirahabimana, the Provincial Executive Secretary. Farmers highlighted some of the challenges they face in their post-harvest management practices, including counterfeit equipment on the market, such as tents, poor feeder roads from farms to storage facilities, and the issue of speculators who buy produce from gardens, which affects the quality of their produce, urging the need for immediate action. Janet Cherie, the chairperson of the Rwangingo Farmers’ Cooperative in Nyagatare District, said the Rwanda Standards Board should increase inspections and crackdown on counterfeit equipment to protect farmers from financial losses and ensure post-harvest management. She said: “Due to increased demand from farmers during harvest seasons, post-harvest equipment is counterfeited, which affects the produce. You buy a tent at a high price, and when you use it once, it’s torn or brings moisture to the produce; this affects the quality of the harvest, leading to low prices or a lack of buyers.” Minister Musafiri urged collaborations between actors in the agriculture value chain and district administrations. He said establishing food banks for sustainable post-harvest management would help bridge the gap in storage capacity and ensure efficient storage of the projected produce. Adding to that, he said the collaboration would not only address the immediate need for additional post-harvest shelters but also provide a long-term solution for managing future yields. He said: “By establishing food banks, we can ensure that the surplus produce is not wasted. Speculators buy the produce because farmers are afraid of losses due to the lack of post-harvest management of their produce. Districts should start establishing food banks to store farmers’ produce who do not have access to cooperatives.” To efficiently and sustainably manage post-harvest shelters, Kirehe District Mayor Bruno Rangira said: “Most of the post-harvest facilities were built by the government, and sometimes you find that the cooperatives that use them do not take care of them. We are going to mobilise cooperatives to endorse ownership of the facilities; if they plan to increase produce, they should also plan the post-harvest management.” Large-scale buyers in the province committed to purchasing the produce; a total of 210,268 tonnes will be bought as committed. For example, African Improved Foods said it would buy 25,000 tonnes of maize; Minimex committed to purchasing 24,000 tonnes; Tubura intends to purchase 5,500 tonnes, and the opening stock of 12,000 sheeting, which will be utilised for post-harvest handling.