The Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) has said that fertiliser use in Rwanda is far below the global average, with farmers attributing the problem to relatively high costs that smallholder farmers cannot afford. Speaking to The New Times, Evariste Tugirinshuti, the president of maize farmers’ cooperatives federation in Rwanda said that low use of fertilisers is due to high prices. He said that a kilogramme of DAP (diammonium phosphate) is Rwf511; Rwf620 for NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), while urea costs Rwf462 a kilogramme. These are the mostly used fertilisers in Rwanda. “For maize cultivation, 100 kilogrammes of DAP fertiliser, and 50 kilogrammes of urea are applied per hectare. Some farmers, especially smallholders cannot afford appropriate fertiliser use as they do not have enough financial means,” he said. Patrick Karangwa, Director-General of RAB indicated that fertiliser use in Rwanda is around 45 kilogrammes per hectare, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, the average is 16 kilogrammes per hectare, and an average of 140 kilogrammes of fertiliser per hectare at global level. Karangwa was speaking during a session between officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources and its affiliated agencies, and the Chamber of Deputies’ Standing Committee on Economy and Trade, last week. Tugirinshuti said that one of the ways to address fertiliser application challenge is to enable farmers access financing, pointing out that they have been facing difficulties getting loans from financial institutions. “Farmers are discouraged to get loans from banks because of very demanding requirements,” he said decrying huge expenses involved. “They are told to provide guarantees, yet, even the cost of valuing it is relatively high as it is Rwf60,000. Also, the Rwf20,000 fee charged on the registration of the guarantee to Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is huge to stallholder farmers who just want small loan,” he expressed. He said that there is a need to support farmers get affordable loans but also ease loan acquisition terms, pointing out that currently, annual loan interest rates range from 18 percent to 30 percent depending on the financial institutions. He said that in line with ensuring efficient use of fertiliser so as to respond to soil fertiliser needs – as some soil might need more or different fertiliser than the other depending on its constituents –, studies to test soil have been undertaken in partnership with Morocco under a project called ‘Caravan. Low fertiliser use partly to blame for low yields Low fertiliser use is one of the contributing factors that yield gap, said Patrick Karangwa. He said that the national maize production per hectare is 1.9 tonnes per hectare based on the statistics from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, yet the average can reach eight tonnes per hectare. However, he pointed out that though the average is 1.9 tonnes per hectare, there are some farmers who get seven tonnes per hectare. “Increasing fertiliser use is one of the key factors [to high yields] There is a need for all the farmers to adopt the application of fertilisers,” he observed. MP Pierre Claver Rwaka said that given that Rwanda has small farmland, there is a need to optimise yield. “Our farmers should be taught how to make the most of the small land available so that they get good yields,” he said. Proposed support under agriculture strategic plan The fourth Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation 2018-2024 (PSTA 4), it is stated that though efforts including government subsidies have been made, farmers continue to face difficulties in accessing and/or affording seeds and fertilisers as was clearly articulated during farmer consultations in the preparation of PSTA 4. RAB’s Karangwa said that under PSTA 4, Rwanda targets to reach 75 kilogrammes of fertilisers per hectare by 2024. The Strategy indicates that the Government, with support from Development Partners to encourage private sector investments in fertiliser distribution, together with a network of agro-dealers through subsidies which will be in the form of voucher schemes to support farmers unable to purchase fertilisers at market prices.