Residents from the Gabiro Agribusiness Hub project area are set to benefit from a commercial farming endeavour in various ways, including acquiring land lease fees and increased farm productivity resulting from irrigation. Regarding the impact on the community, Hanson Micomyiza, the managing director of Gabiro Agribusiness Hub, told The New Times about 1500 landowners will have their land expropriated to pave way for the project. Among them, he said, 312 have houses within the project operation area, indicating that they will be considered in the new and modern resettlement being finalised by the project, where they will get new houses. According to information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, the project aims to run holistic and commercial farming by developing an advanced agricultural eco-system and modern value chain over a total of approximately 15,600 hectares of arable land. This, the ministry indicated, will be achieved through advanced water infrastructure, cutting-edge irrigation systems, high-value agro-processing operations, and other ag-tech activities across the value chain. Phase one whose development is due for completion by the end of this year covers 5,600 hectares – of which 4,000 hectares shall be allocated to commercial farming and will be leased to members of the private sector for a minimum tenure of 49 years (renewable). Micomyiza said that every landowner will maintain 25 per cent of his/her affected land, to do intensive farming of both food crops and livestock. He indicated that while the selected 11 companies were allocated 4,000 hectares, a gross area of 1,600 hectares was meant for community farming by landowners. “Landowners will primarily benefit from the annual payment of the land lease fee, and improved land value with adequate farming infrastructure,” he said, citing irrigation support. The land lease fee was fixed at $375 (about Rwf400, 000 considering the current exchange rates) per hectare every year, with a two per cent annual increment from the third year. Also, Micomyiza said that the technical support by Gabiro Agribusiness Hub Ltd together with Netafim will enable landowners to significantly increase productivity on small-scale farms (25 per cent of the land consolidated together) and market linkage through the investors, who will be cropping on their 75 per cent share of the land. Moreover, he underscored that about 4,000 new jobs will be created by the project following different levels of education. They include construction of the needed infrastructure, farm management, and tractor driving, harvesting, processing, and packaging. Irrigation as an ‘enabler’ for increased farm yield Desiré Mirenge, the representative of residents in the Gabiro Agribusiness Hub project, told The New Times that it is important for food security and income generation. He said that 40 per cent of the land allocated to the residents is designed for crop farming, while 60 per cent is meant for livestock keeping which will ensure fodder for the livestock which will increase milk production (for cows). “The implication is that if a resident gets land for crop farming with irrigation assurance, it is a relief for the farmer to grow crops and be guaranteed of yield without overreliance on rain,” he said. On more harvest potential, he said that he could currently get between four and five tonnes of maize per hectare, but the project demonstration farm showed that maize production was between 12 and 15 tonnes per hectare, which is three times more yield. “Farm yield was low because of climate change, sometimes there was rainfall, sometimes there was not,” he said. “But, with reliable irrigation, I can harvest at least 24 tonnes on two hectares per season,” he said. According to information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, the project is in line with Rwanda’s plan to increase the resilience of agriculture to climate change effects through increasing irrigated farmland. As per the ministry’s annual report for 2021-2022, the area under irrigation was 68,126 hectares and the target is to reach 102,000 hectares by 2024.