Study highlights challenges facing farmers’ cooperatives

Lack of knowledge and financial capacity to handle post-harvest losses, inefficiencies in book-keeping and poor management are some of the main problems still affecting maize farmers, a study has revealed.

Conducted between September and October this year by the National Cooperatives Confederation of Rwanda (NCCR), the study also revealed that limited access to agricultural loans and markets, lack of proper storage facilities and persistent disaster were hurting maize farming.

It was conducted in conjunction with the National Cooperative Agency and other partners to assess issues affecting maize and potato farmers, beekeeping and livestock.

“The assessment revealed that 26.6 per cent of maize harvest was lost in 2017/2018 due to bad post-harvest handling. This happened because farmers have no knowledge about practices in handling such losses while others have no financial capacity to manage and invest in post-harvest losses facilities,” said Vincent Rutaremara, the expert who conducted the study.

Post-harvest losses occur along the whole value chain during harvesting, cleaning, transporting, drying, shelling, winnowing, storage, packaging, processing and others.

“Poor post-harvest handling affects prices of maize produce because when farmers take their produce to clients, they reject it due to its poor grade. It is worsened by price fluctuations,” said Rutaremara.

Maize is a core food crop that ensures food security in Rwanda and has been highlighted as a focused crop under the 4th Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture (PSTA4).

Figures show that as population demands increase, so will maize consumption from 227,212 metric tonnes between 2018 and 245,235 in 2023/2024.

However, Rutaremera said that if post-harvest losses are not reduced and continue to lack access to finance, suitable inputs and better cooperative management and others to increase production, the demand might not be met.