Less than a year since they started growing chilli, pod peas and French beans for export to Europe, youth members of ‘Twigire Muhinzi’ Cooperative in Rukumberi, Ngoma District, are laughing all the way to the bank.
After practicing farming for years without much success due to different issues especially drought, their lives changed late last year when they started using solar-powered irrigation along river Akagera.
The variety of crops they grow has increased, the area of cultivation increased from one hectare to ten and the cooperative members have increased from seven to 36.
The small scale irrigation site, consolidated among members, has also boosted the growth of some other crops like aubergine, cabbages, watermelon, tomatoes, onions and bell peppers which they supply to local markets in Kigali.
Introducing pod peas
The President of the cooperative; Straton Dusengimana says that they grow pod peas on two hectares and in the second week of January alone, he harvested 160 kilogrammes of the peas from five percent of the plantation, cashing in Rwf64, 000.
Today, the cooperative has signed on a client from Kenya who supplies their produce to Europe.
“When sold from the farm, pod peas go for Rwf400 per kilogram, but the price goes up to Rwf600 when transported to Kigali. He expects more than 10 tonnes per hectare,” he says.
Dusengimana recalls that before this irrigation system started, he would grow sorghum on one hectare and harvest 500 kilogrammes. With a kilo costing Rwf200 at the time, he would make an income of Rwf100, 000 per season.
However, crops like watermelon have been a huge success, growing to a harvest of almost 50 tonnes.
“The watermelon alone that we grow here, for instance, gives us 48 tonnes per hectare. On average, one kilo is around Rwf150. We do not get below six or seven million francs,” he explained.
When it comes to chilli, the cooperative in the beginning produced 200 kilogrammes every week, but today the quantity has increased to four tonnes per week.
Chilli peppers cost Rwf300 if bought straight from the farm, and Rwf400 when bought from the warehouse in Kigali. French beans cost Rwf400 a kilo from the farm and Rwf500 when the cooperative transports it to Kigali.
This month will be the third time the cooperative is harvesting chilli and it expects 10 tonnes per hectare.
From the profits, every young member of the cooperative has managed to buy a plot to construct their own home.
“This has been very beneficial to all of us. This February, I don’t expect to make anything less than four million Francs. Before this modern farming, I would not get above Rwf200, 000 a season,” he explained.
The progress is echoed by 30-year-old Amos Hategekimana, who owns one hectare of chilli peppers plantation. He says that the benefits have increased as they gained knowledge and incorporated many different crops.
“I used to invest Rwf250,000 into one season, and get Rwf50, 000 profit, but since the introduction of solar-powered irrigation, I get net profit of Rwf200,000,” he says.
Hategekimana has built himself a family home and says that he has no intention of switching from agriculture.
The Director of Agriculture in Ngoma District; Innocent Mudahemuka says that people growing crops in the Rukumberi area used to spend as long as up to three years without harvesting.
“Today these farmers can testify that they harvest three times a year, it is something into which we will keep putting our efforts; because after all you cannot trust the weather,” he said.
He said that the Rukumberi cooperative should serve as a good example to the youth that agriculture is lucrative and offers many opportunities.
Small scale irrigation was last season done on 90 hectares in Ngoma District, and this year, the plan is to irrigate 300 hectares.
The Vice Mayor for Economic Affairs, Cyriaque Nyiridandi Mapambano, says that funds to achieve the expansion have already been allocated a whopping Rfw100m.
“We are going to do our best so that more people can pick interest in modern agriculture especially through the government programme called “Nkunganire”, where a farmer can acquire an irrigation system and he or she is given 50 percent funding from the government,” he said.
The district irrigation potential is around 9,000 hectares, but the total irrigated surface thus far is below 1,000 hectares.Follow JDNsabimana