Farmers who are part of a cooperative in Rutsiro District are reporting harvests of about two tonnes of strawberry per week which has driven up their earnings.
Claude Izimenyera, the president of KOABUNYA-TWITEZIMBERE, said they ventured into the business in 2017 in Nyabirasi sector
“We were previously growing other crops but later we decided to shift to strawberry and tree tomatoes. We have started to harvest strawberry and are yet to harvest tree tomatoes,” he said.
The cooperative grows strawberry on 20 hectares with 449 members of which 189 are women while tree tomatoes are on two hectares.
“We harvest between one and two tonnes of strawberry per week as we harvest twice a week with a kilogramme selling at Rwf1,000,” he said.
Farmers make a fortune from strawberry growing.
This means that the cooperative amasses between Rwf1 million and Rwf2 million every week.
“We started with Rwf5 million investment and with the profits we have bought other properties worth Rwf10 million. We bought forest plantations worth Rwf3.5 million and other pieces of land,” he said.
He said that for strawberry, it takes between 2 and 3 years to start harvesting.
“We own part of the land where we grow the fruits and lease some of it,” he said.
The farmers supply their produce to processing factory which produces fruits into jam in Karongi district.
It required Rwf10, 000 for every member to join the cooperative.
The farmers are part of 200,000 farmers benefitting from increased yields under the support of Rwanda Agriculture Board in partnership with Hinga Weze-USAID project.
The farmers used to lose 30 per cent of their harvest due to poor post-harvest handling techniques.
“We were using poor quality containers to transport strawberry to the market and with damages on the way to market, about 30 kilogrammes out of every 100 kilogrammes would be lost,” he said.
The project has now availed transport containers to the farmers and linked them to the market.
With 3 hours transporting fruits to the market in poor containers, they would easily get damaged. But having been linked to market and better techniques of transporting the harvest, we are no longer counting losses, added Laurence Mutuyimana a member of the cooperative.
The cooperative also deals fertilizers and maize seeds.
This season they traded 8.9 tonnes of DAP,1.9 tonnes of NPK and 6 tonnes of Urea.
“We get a profit of Rwf8 per every Kilogramme of fertilizers we trade,” added Marie Ange Byukusenge, a cooperative member who is in charge of agro-inputs dealing.
The cooperative was last week celebrating the Wold Food Day.
Geraldine Mukeshimana, the Minister for Agriculture, said that the new campaign aims at pushing every household to plant at least three fruit trees of different types to ensure food security and eradicate malnutrition.
“There are still 4,000 households who are still food insecure even though food security currently stands at 81 per cent,” she said.
The improving food security in the country is largely attributed to the growth of the agriculture sector as a result of different policies and initiatives.
They include land use consolidation, improved use of agricultural inputs, protection of land against soil erosion, irrigation, reduced post-harvest losses of both dried and fresh produce, one cow per family initiative (Girinka), and high value crops promotion.