Rwf18bn investments to support maize, potato, tea farmers

A demo plot of Irish potatoes with quality inputs. Courtesy Photos.

At least 60,000 rural households in farming are set to see an improvement in their livelihoods thanks to a four-year investment of €18 million (Rwf18 billion) beginning this year.

The Agricultural Public-Private initiative, funded by the Netherlands, is comprised of three projects that seek to support the professionalisation of maize value chain, potato value chain, and rehabilitation of tea estate.

Dr. Charles Murekezi, the Director-General of Agriculture Development in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said that the investments will consolidate what has been done by government and other partners to address issues in the agricultural value chain sector.

The projects will be implemented in partnership with Africa Improved Foods that processes maize grains, KUMWE that conducts post-harvest handling and logistics and Agriterra, a Dutch non-government organization supporting the country’s efforts to improve the livelihoods of local farmers engaged in dairy farming, Irish potatoes, maize, and sugarcane and others.

Farmers have been urged on good post-harvest handling practices.

Other implementing partners include Delphy and Seed Potato Fund based in potato value chain as well as SORWATHE which, in partnership with conservation NGO-ARCOS will rehabilitate tea estates to improve water management and use uphill agroforestry to stop erosion and generate income for farmers.

Murekezi said the investment responds to challenges in agriculture sector.

“Erosion is one of issues we have been grappling with. Agro-forestry on hillside will to reduce suffering from flooding. The investments will consolidate what has been done by government and other partners,” he said.

He urged implementers to use ICT initiatives to extend services to farmers.

Potato value chain

“We hope the project will ensure potato value chain efficiency,” he added.

Rwanda produces 916,000 tonnes of Irish potatoes every year, making it the third most popular food crop produced in the country. Potatoes cover 3.9 per cent of the total cultivated area.

The average productivity of potato is ten tonnes per hectare which is low as compared to yield potential.

Demonstration on how farmers can store maize grain.

Statistics from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda indicate that the per capita consumption for potatoes is 125 Kilograms and 145 Kilograms for sweet potato.

The project seeks to supply certified quality potato seeds in the Musanze and Burera Districts in Northern Province, Nyabihu and Rubavu Districts in Western Province, Nyamagabe in Southern Province, Nyaruguru in Western Province and Kirehe in Eastern province.

The Northern volcanic region accounts for more than 80 per cent of national potato production.

In this region, potato is the staple food with more than 60 per cent of the production being used directly for home consumption.

The government has strategies to sustain the potato industry whereby seed production in the lab has increased from 20,000 plantlets in 2001 to 800,000 plantlets in 2017.

Figures show that about 86 per cent of potato growers in Rwanda use improved varieties of Irish potatoes and about 89 per cent of farmers apply inorganic fertilizers.

 Potato breeding programme released 21 potato varieties since 1983 and these are still under potato production system in Rwanda

Maize value chain

In the maize value chain, the support will focus on eradicating aflatoxins in maize, officials said.

Farmers that will benefit are from Eastern and Northern provinces.

Studies show that significant percentage of maize produce is rejected by agro-processing factories due to poor quality caused by aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins are poisonous substances regularly found in improperly stored staple commodities such as maize, rice, sorghum, millet, wheat, cassava and others.

For instance Africa Improved Foods factory rejected 90 per cent of supplied maize produce in 2017 Agricultural Season B because of the poor quality caused by Aflatoxin.

Due to lack of needed quality, the factory resorted to importing maize especially from neighbouring countries such as Zambia and Tanzania.

The factory which produces between 120 tonnes and 150 tonnes of finished products per day will help farmers eliminate aflatoxin under the new project.

The partnerships to professionalize potato, maize value chains result from the SDG Partnership Facility of the Netherlands Enterprise Organization.

Each partnership consists of a 50 per cent grant by the Netherlands Enterprise Organization matched by a further 50 per cent provided by private sector companies.

The investments aim to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals on ending hunger, decent work and income, health and food safety, and climate action according to Matthijs Wolter, the Designated Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Rwanda.

He said the three partnership projects are an important step in a growing agenda of trade and investment between the two countries and added that the partnerships will be a stimulus for Rwanda to continuously improve its business climate.

Guido Landheer, the Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture in The Hague said that the concept of circular economy is the new focus area for Dutch Innovation

editor@newtimesrwanda.com