About 25 kilometres from Kigali is Karenge Sector, Rwamagana District in the Eastern Province. It is a key source of bananas, vegetables and other cash crops for Rwanda’s capital city.
At least 260 tonnes of vegetables, mainly tomatoes, bell peppers, pumpkins, watermelons and pineapples from Karenge are sold to Kigali every month.
Karenge and Nyakariro sectors reportedly account for at least 60 per cent of the tomatoes and eggplant supplies to Kigali
Some vegetable produce from these two sectors end up in Rubavu District as well as Goma, DR Congo.
The high production is thanks to Lake Mugesera and River Akagera, which have continued to facilitate irrigation on the farms and boosted the welfare of farmers.
Farmers are buoyant
Speraton Ntawumenyumunsi, a farmer in the area has more than 10 hectares of coffee, banana, macadamia, passion fruits, tamarillos and pineapples among others.
Despite the challenge of banana disease Ntawumenyumunsi, who hails from Kanyangese village says that banana farming is still his cash cow.
Ntawumenyumunsi, who employs 30 casual workers in his farm, said that he earns Rwf300,000 every month from his bananas plantation. His net monthly income is Rwf500,000 when he adds earnings from other crops.
“This happens when you do it excellently and follow technical advice from agronomists, and we are very lucky we have a Government that always has our back,” he explained.
“A farmer nowadays is on top, and considering the situation in Karenge, if we keep having good weather, Rwandans should not worry, there will be no food problem,” he added.
In 2012, Theophile Nisengwe, a 40-year-old mother of four who hails from Karenge Village ditched her teaching job for farming.
She now grows Irish potatoes, maize and beans on two hectares, and since 2018, Nisengwe is involved in Irish potato seed multiplication thanks to the partnership with Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).
“After I quit teaching, I started farming. I managed to pay for my university education thanks to agriculture,” she said.
Last season she produced five tonnes of Irish potatoes from one hectare and eight tonnes of maize from two hectares.
Nisengwe has also expanded to chicken farming; now she keeps 6,000 birds.
The boom in farming activities around Karenge has inspired Jean de Dieu Ntanshutimwe and other 25 youth farmers grouped under Eden Farmer to venture tamarillo and passion fruit plantations.
“We used to grow maize and sorghum, but since we grouped ourselves together as youth, we are gaining more than before,” Ntanshutimwe declared.
Ildephone Bizimana, an agronomist, told The New Times that people in Karenge are known for their hard work, which makes them easily qualify for government incentives such as irrigation systems, seeds and fertilizers among others.
Karenge is also a major coffee growing area, with around 1,500,000 coffee trees, and three coffee processing plants—RWACOF, Gutanga Farm and Green Mountain Coffee Arabica.
It also produces 60 tonnes of macadamia trees for export.
The boom in banana production promoted the establishment four banana processing plants in Karenge
Some farmers, especially cooperatives growing maize have contracts to supply their produce directly to major processing plants like Africa Improved Food (AIF), Minimex, among others, which guarantees them market access.
Radjab Mbonyumuvunyi, Rwamagana District Mayor, told The New Times that “Many people cannot believe it but 60 per cent of tomato and eggplants supplied to Kigali come from sectors of Karenge and Nyakariro,” he said.
Karenge tops other sectors of the district in agriculture productivity, according to the mayor..Follow DeDiosNsabimana