Rwanda is offering free fertilisers to its farmers, and intensifying irrigation efforts as it responds to high food prices, and drought that is threatening to cause crop production failure, The New Times has learnt. On October 26, 2022, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Gerardine Mukeshimana issued special instructions regarding the provision of DAP and urea fertilisers fully subsidised by the Government to farmers in the farming season A of 2023 [which starts from September 2022 and runs through February 2023]. According to the instructions, the support concerns maize, soya and bean farming on consolidated agriculture land, and selected large farmland based on their potential to give high yields. The decision takes effect from the same day they were issued and are valid until January 31, 2023. Before this development, a farmer had to pay Rwf828 as a partially Government subsidised price for a kilogramme of DAP, and Rwf754 for a kilogramme of urea – two key fertilisers required to increase farm productivity for the abovementioned crops. The aforementioned instructions indicate that the measure to fully subsidise fertilisers for the stated crops was based on factors including the Government’s programme to increase crop production in a bid to tackle food price increase and climate change (drought). Speaking to The New Times, Charles Bucagu, Deputy Director General in charge of Agriculture Development at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), said that drought is a serious concern that the country is dealing with now. He said that the country is responding to drought with a three pronged approach – consisting of provision of fertilisers to crop maximise yields especially in marshlands, irrigation, and early maturing crop seeds to farmers (such as sweet potato vine cuttings that give yield within three months and are even resistant to drought). “You realise that dry spell is severe. The strategy is to increase harvests in all those areas which could provide yields in the current farming season,” he said, citing maize crops that suffered water distress and had started to dry up in some parts of Eastern Province. Meanwhile, he said that an assessment is ongoing to establish the extent of drought damage on crops in different districts of the country, and affected farmers so that they are given support, including food relief, if need be. A relief for farmers Chrysostom Twiringiyimana, president of the union of maize farmers’ cooperatives in Nyagatare District (UNICOPROMANYA), told The New Times that that drought and high costs of fertilisers, were among the major factors that resulted price hike, with a kilogramme of maize more than doubling to Rwf590 currently (in 2022), from between Rwf230 and Rwf250 in 2020. Last farming season, Twiringiyimana said, drought negatively affected their production, as the farmers got two tonnes of hectare against five to six tonnes they would get in case of good weather conditions. “Giving free fertilisers to farmers is a relief as it will contribute to lowering the cost of food production they were incurring,” he said, adding that the move will also benefit consumers through reduced food prices. Management, application of the fully subsidised fertilisers The Minister’s instructions state that it is RAB that supplies the fertilisers to districts, in the warehouses designed for storing such farm input. The fertilisers are received by the District leadership, which signs a related delivery note. On the day of applying the fertilisers, the District has the responsibility to take them to the sites where they are meant to be used. Regarding application, the free DAP and urea fertilisers that have been brought to the sites in question, will be applied in the form of Umuganda (community work), with the participation of various [public] entities, farmers, and other district partners in the framework of agriculture development. The community work plan to this end is set by the district. Bucagu said that the community work will officially start on Monday (October 31, 2022), indicating that the areas targeted with this fertiliser intervention include marshlands. After fertiliser is applied, the district management makes a report indicating how the fertiliser was used, including the address of the farmers to which it was given (such as their names, number of national ID card, and mobile phone number), the size of the cultivated land, amount of fertilisers they received, and their signature. Irrigation Bucagu said that about 470 irrigation machines that were given to districts last year, are being put to use currently to respond to crops’ water needs for growth. Also, he said that community work is being deployed here for concerted irrigation efforts. He added that some farmers also bought their own machines with Government subsidy for small-scale irrigation technologies (SSIT) scheme. The scheme covers 50 per cent of the cost of irrigation equipment needed by the farmers who grow crops on land of 0.5 hectare up to 10 hectares. But, beneficiaries of the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Food security Project (SAIP) get up to 75 per cent subsidy. According to data from MINAGRI, funds amounting to Rwf2.4 billion is allocated to small scale irrigation in the current fiscal year. They include over Rwf1.1 billion earmarked to districts, and Rwf1.3 billion from SAIP. Data from the 2020-2021 annual report by MINAGRI showed that irrigated land amounted to over 66,840 ha, while the target is to increase the area to over 102,000 ha by 2024.