How jackfruit became a delicacy in Ngoma

Jackfruit has become a popular fruit in Ngoma district. Jean Dieu Nsabimana.

When anyone travels to Ngoma District in the Eastern Province, they will certainly be fascinated by various lakes and crops such as pineapples and bananas, but they will also not miss the many jackfruit trees in almost every home.

Jackfruit, locally known as ‘ibifenesi’ have always been a rare sight in Rwanda, but in the last few years, that has changed, especially in Ngoma.

The fruit is popular in Mugesera and Zaza sectors, but also largely found in Sake, Rukumberi, Karembo, Jarama and Gashanda.

With almost all mango trees lost to sooty mold disease, the jackfruit’s resistance to various diseases has replaced mangoes as the fruit of choice for many people.

A mature tree can have over 200 jackfruits in a season, according to farmers. Despite being able to produce all year round, there are two major ripe seasons of the fruits; February and July. 

Ngoma District estimates around 69 tonnes of jackfruits produced in 2018.

“Everybody should try to taste it, because it is very delicious,” said Diane Gisubizo, 16, from Mugesera Sector.

Jean Hitimana, 66, another resident said he noticed the fruit growing on his farm and then let it grow and admits at one time, it was the only source of food when there was poverty in the area.

Now four more trees are growing on Hitimana’s land. He adds that the fruit earns him between Rwf500 and Rwf1,000.

Today, people from across Lake Mugesera in Karenge Sector, Rwamagana District are their main buyers, who eventually take the fruit to Kigali.

Charles Mugirwanake, the Executive Secretary of Mugesera Sector admits that the fruit is advantageous to them since it is one of the tools in fighting malnutrition.

“The fruit is very nutritious and is one of the ways we have helped our children not to suffer from malnutrition but we also believe the jackfruit trees also mitigate against strong winds,” the official said adding that the fruit is also profitable.

Emmanuel Nzabonimana, a resident of Zaza Sector, has three trees at home, and eight on his farm, the youngest being productive for the last seven years.

“I recall that I earned Rwf30,000 in one season,” he said, adding that previously the fruit was only grown for home consumption.

“When you eat it and go to work in a farm, you cultivate with much energy,” he added.

Ngomais also the country’s largest producers of pineapples that are planted at over 4,000 hectares.

On average, one jackfruit weights around six kilos.

Venant Uwiragiye, Ngoma District cash crop officer said that historically, the fruit came from Asian countries, specifically in India.

“One old man I tried to talk to told me that the seeds were brought here from Uganda in 1950s and 60s,” he recalled.

Nutritionists suggest that jackfruit is rich in energy, dietary fibre, minerals, and vitamins and free from saturated fats or cholesterol. It is a good source of potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron.

The components help in controlling theheart rate and blood pressure, reinforce the immune system, slow the ageing process, combat the deficiency of red blood cells in the blood and enable an effective absorption of iron in the body.