For many years, farmers in Musanze District could hardly get fertilisers and quality seeds on time, which cast their farm yields in jeopardy and hurt their incomes.
The farmers say that their problems were compounded by expensive farm inputs. A kilogramme of DAP, which is commonly applied in maize plantations used to cost Rwf737 while a kilogramme maize seeds cost Rwf760.
This is in addition to delays in accessing these farm inputs.
“Fertilisers and quality seeds could reach us late, towards the end of the planting season,” said Lucie Nyirahabimana, one of the Imboni z’Iterambere Musanze Cooperative members.
Confronted by sustained losses, the cooperative agreed to embark on an advocacy to improve the situation, Nyirahabimana said.
They used community forums to put their message across to policymakers and responsible stakeholders.
Since 2016, Imboni z’Itermbere Musanze, an umbrella cooperative that groups together 50 unions and cooperatives of smallholder women farmers and some men from Muko Sector, started their advocacy work.
The cooperative comprises of 1,506 members, of whom 1,256 are smallholder women farmers.
In mid-2017, local leaders responded to their call and launched a programme called Nkunganire, which has since been delivering subsidised fertilisers and seeds on a timely basis.
Through Nkunganire scheme, the farmer now buy a kilogramme of DAP at Rwf480 and pay Rwf295 for a kilogramme of maize seeds.
Nyirahabimana and other smallholder farmers in the cooperative reveal that their advocacy was a result of numerous trainings they’ve received on sustainable agricultural policies and citizen participatory budgeting.
The trainings were organised under the auspices of a project called Strengthening Civil Society Organisation Capacity in Promoting Sustainable Agriculture Policies and Citizens Participatory Budgeting in Rwanda (SCAB) funded by the European Union and Action Aid Rwanda.
They stressed that, through these trainings, they’ve managed to hone their farming skills, boosted their individual confidence, which have all continued facilitate them in effectively conveying their views to policymakers and influencing various programmes in agriculture.
Felcien Kanyamugenge, the president of Twite ku Bana Bacu, one of the cooperatives that make up Imboni z’Iterambere Musanze, said that their maize production has doubled.
“After accessing seeds and fertilisers on time and at affordable price our produce has significantly increased as we no longer encounter calamities associated with late planting,” he said, adding that they expect to harvest 15 tonnes of maize per a hectare this season.
“We now have enough produce to feed our families and surplus for sale, we easily access agricultural services given that we are able to raise our voice,” added Kanyamugenge.
The officer in charge of business development and employment promotion in Muko Sector, Jean Bosco Nduwimana, echoed the farmers’ sentiment stressing that there is a remarkable increase in maize production.
Nduwimana said now that the farmers are aware of their role in shaping agriculture policy, they are capable of holding public officials accountable.
Speaking to The New Times, the Vice Mayor for Social Affairs in Musanze District, Marie-Claire Uwamariya, said the district started collaborating with the members of Imboni z’Iterambere Musanze Cooperative to train other farmers in the district on sustainable agricultural policies and citizen participatory budgeting given the knowledge and skills the cooperative members had acquired.
Findings from the 2018 Citizen Report Card by Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) indicated that overall satisfaction in service delivery in agriculture sector stood at 49.41 per cent and dissatisfaction at 47.36 per cent.
Musanze District was ranked 20th, with 68.8 per cent of satisfaction rate by the same survey.