Effects of climate change such as unusually prolonged drought continue to derail agricultural cooperatives’ production, farmers’ representatives have raised concern.
The concerns were expressed through an assessment dubbed “Climate change impact on agriculture”.
During Agricultural Season A that started in September 2018, Ibyizabirimbere Cooperative from Kirehe District planted maize seeds on 425 hectares but only 112 hectares were irrigated. Consequently, most of the crops were affected owing to an unexpected prolonged drought which affected the unirrigated section of the land, according to Evariste Tugirinshuti, the president of the cooperative.
“We planted the seeds in 425 hectares and irrigated only 112 hectares with our available capacity meaning that seeds on remaining part never germinated due to prolonged drought,” he said.
At least 25 Kilogrammes of maize seeds were planted per one hectare, he said.
A total of 7,825 Kilogrammes (7.8 tonnes of maize seeds) was consequently lost owing to the drought.
By the time, a Kilogramme of maize seeds was costing RwfRwf540 meaning that with over 7. 8 tonnes of seeds failing to germinate, over Rwf4.2 million was lost by the cooperative.
Other inputs that the cooperative lost under the disaster include fertilizers (DAP and Urea).
Tugirinshuti said that they had used up abour 100 kilogrammes of DAP and 50 Kilogrammes of Urea per one hectare totaling to 31 tonnes and 15.6 tonnes respectively.
“When farmers face such losses, those who got loan from the bank are not able to payback,” he said.
He said that irrigation is a better intervention to end the status quo characterized by losses.
“When a farmer irrigates, they can harvest over six tonnes of maize per hectare but without irrigation they harvest under 2 tonnes per ha,” he said.
He said that alternatively, farmers chose to plant beans after the incidence.
An assessment carried out by National Cooperatives Confederation showed that different disasters mainly caused by climate change affect farmers’ cooperatives.
About 90 per cent of cooperatives are based in agricultural value chain.
According to Joseph Mutware, an expert who carried out the assessment, level of productivity in crops and livestock is still far from its productivity potential due to various reasons including lack of means to adapt to climate change effects such as irrigation.
Currently, he said, agricultural yields are estimated at between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of their productivity potential which points to a still suboptimal use of production technologies.
Agriculture sector activities in Rwanda are made up of crops, livestock, fishery and forestry which are affected by climate hazards such as drought, floods, landslides, earthquake and windstorms.
More cooperatives affected
From January to June 2018, floods and landslides affected 9,412 hectares of crops and caused death of 797 livestock. In general, different damages including infrastructure caused more than Rwf204 billion in economic losses in this period.
In 2015, the first ever prolonged drought led 28,000 households to face hunger while 62,000 metric tonnes and 157,700 metric tonnes were respectively lost in Season A and B.
“We recommend scaling up small scale irrigation and insurance services to farmers,” said Mutware.
According to James Nkubito, in charge of planning, branding and promotion of cooperatives at Rwanda Cooperative Agency, the climate change might lead some cooperatives to collapse if nothing done to rescue them.
“We need to carry out research to detect gaps in cooperatives development. Agricultural cooperatives make big percentage of cooperatives in the country and they need to be supported to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We have cases of cooperatives struggling whereby their infrastructure are destroyed by climate hazards and are unable to operate effectively,” he said.
He noted that in conjunction with agricultural development board and institutions in charge of environment, more solutions are being devised to help farmers control erosion and adapt to drought.
In the 2017/2018 fiscal year, the target was to irrigate 100,000 hectares of farmland, which officials said was overambitious due to high cost of irrigation and land fragmentation.
Government has revised irrigation these targets saying 102,000 hectares will be irrigated by 2024.
According to figures from the ministry, only 50,000 hectares are currently catered for by irrigation schemes countrywide.