BY HUDSON KUTEESA
About 68 percent of Rwandans are livestock farmers with a majority being cattle keepers. MINAGRI through RAB has invested significantly in building capacities in the livestock sector in order to ensure its sustainable growth.
Almost every Rwandan is engaged in livestock farming; poultry, cattle, goats, pigs; and fish farming is, too, gaining importance from both the production and consumption ends.
Between 2010 and 2017, Rwanda fish industry has experienced accelerated growth. According to theÂ available data, fish output in Rwanda now stands at more than 27,000 metric tons, from the 13,414 metric tons in 2010.
Special efforts that have been made to promote the industry include; increasing fish feeds, diversifying fish farming and curbing illegal fishing.
In quest for addressingÂ the challenge of inadequate fish feeds in the country, RAB has continued to encourage investors in fish feed production which has seenÂ establishment of a factory with daily capacity of producing 1 ton of feedsÂ in the Kigali Special Economic Zone by AQUAHORT EXPORTS Ltd.
PAFI, another company that produces 100 kg of feeds per hour is also functioningÂ in Rwamagana. Another factory supported by the Koreans is also at installation stage in Huye District.
According to Dr. Wilson Rutaganira, the Programme Coordinator of Aquaculture and Fisheries at RAB, more efforts have been put in encouragingÂ world leading fish feed manufacturers like RAANAN and ALLER AQUA to open up selling outlets in Rwanda.Â ALLER AQUA, a global fish feed producer with up to 100 years of experience opened shop in Rwanda. The Danish company started selling their feeds in the country through GORILLA FEEDS.
Dr. Rutaganira says that as these factories are being installed in Rwanda, there is need to have them supported to produce quality feeds with low feed conversion ratio which is very critical in the economics of fish farming.
Fish Farming Diversification and capacity building
RAB has also worked on the diversification of fish farming using the already available species especially the African catfish.Â The Introduction of a Clarias hatchery at Kigembe Fish Centre has also improved the availability of the fingerlings.
All this has been coupled with building the capacity of fish farmers on how to improve their farming methods, sexing fish, feeding, fry rearing, among others.
Curbing illegal fishing
This has always been a problem in the fishing sector and the more the demand the more the illegal fishermenÂ come up.
Partnering with Police and army marine, RAB mounted consistentÂ surveillance missions and all the illegal gears captured have been destroyed. The issue of the penal code that does not have the penalties for illegal fishing has been a setback according to Dr. Rutaganira.
Investing in fisheries
Dr. Rutaganira says that investors are slowly picking interest in the industry. He says that the issue of limited fish feeds has been hampering them thus making the business less attractive. With more companies producing fish feeds in the country, the future may be brighter for the coming in of investors.
Currently, there are nearly 150 cooperatives and 15 companies that are undertaking intensive fish farming mainly in cage fish farming.
Dr. Rutaganira says that RAB is looking at intensifying research aimed at improving the diversification of fish species being farmed so as to embrace those that are adapted to cold zones like the blue tilapia and the carps.
RAB is also looking at introducing a new system of mixing fish farming with rice farming so as to utilize all the available water resources-dams,Â canals or in rice fields.
Privatizing the national hatchery to increase production of day old chicks and eggs
In a bid to increase the availability of day old chicks and eggs to poultry farmers, the Government leased its Rubirizi National Hatchery to Flow Equity, an American firm, at Rwf750 million for 25 years.
The decision was aimed at revamping the facilities to increase productivity that, in return, would reduce import bill on chicken and eggs.
Part of the agreement is that the lesseeÂ will revamp the existing facilities to enhance production capacity and work more closely with small-holder farmers in addition to employing nationals.Â
According to Dr. Fabrice Ndayisenga, the Animal Production & Extension Specialist at RAB, under the new management, by the end of 2017 the hatchery will produce up to 200,000 day old chicks per month- both layers and broilers Â to satisfy the demand in the country.
Dr. Ndayisenga adds that the availability of the Â chicks in the country will help the farmers to stop importing from outside countries which was expensive.
Formerly, a number of farmers have been importing one- day old chicks from Belgium at 1000 RFW each, or from Uganda at Rwf800 or 700. With the upgraded hatchery, however, Dr. Ndayisenga said that he expects farmers to access one-day old chicks at Rwf500 or 600 each.
Expansion of hatchery services
TheÂ Government also allocated 15 hectares of land in Bugesera District to Flow Equity to facilitate their expansion and provide wider avenues for suppliers.
Their business which has branches in Ethiopia and Northern America aims at boosting production capacities of the hatchery to make prices of chicken products more affordable.
Improving poultry productionRwanda produced up to 23,168 metric tonnes of poultry meat and 7,475 metric tonnes of eggs in 2016, according to statistics from Rwanda Agriculture Board.
This is a great increase from the 13,718 metric tonnes of poultry meat and 5,203 metric tonnes of eggs produced by 2010.
RAB worked with the Rwanda Poultry Industry Association to mobilise poultry farmers to get together so that they can always share experience and best practices.Â In December 2016, an expert from Belgium came to Rwanda to build the capacities of poultry farmers in the country. Dr. Ndayisenga says that this is important since Rwanda still needs more learning from other countries about poultry farming,
âThere are technologies and techniques that we must continue to acquire ,â he said.
Animal health is very critical in the field of animal husbandry. Highly infectious diseases make animal husbandry nearly impossible. Even less severe diseases that result in poor animal health and breed decrease the performance of farm animals, leading to lower production and associated financial losses due to mortality and morbidity. Poor animal health also negatively influences animal production and reproduction.
It is for this very reason that the provision of veterinary services by national and regional agencies is a key component to the success of farm operations.
By taking both preventive and corrective measures, RAB also was able to improve livestock production in the 6 year government program.
Rwanda clinically free of CBPP, PPR, ASF, FMD and HPAI
Rwanda now stands clinically free of Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP),Â Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), African Swine Fever (ASF),Â Foot and Mouth DiseaseÂ (FMD),Â and Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza (HPAI).
Dr. Isidore Gafarasi Mapendo, the Director of Veterinary and Laboratory Services at RAB, these diseases have been well managed these diseases and they are no longer affecting the livestock in the country.
Responding to Rift Valley Fever by vaccination
Some Rift Valley Fever (RVF) cases were reported around Nyabarongo-Akagera, and up to 35000 animals were vaccinated.Â
Rift Valley feverÂ (RVF) is an acute,Â fever-causing viral disease most commonly observed in domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, with the ability to infect and cause illness in humans.
Dr. Gafarasi explains that the diseaseÂ thrivesÂ during rainy seasons but disappears when farmers vaccinate. .
Dealing with rabies
Dr. Gafarasi also explained that rabies is no longer a big threat because of efforts by RAB in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to monitor vaccination of dogs,Â cats vaccinated and cullingÂ stray dogs.
Vet services at sector level
Access to veterinary services also improved drastically: now there is at least a veterinary practitioner at sector level.
âBefore, it was difficult to have even one at the district level, now we have them at sector level,â said Dr. Gafarasi.
In addition to these, there are the community animal health workers at the village level. Dr. Gafarasi says that this makes the information flow more organized thus easy.
âWhen a farmer needs support, he knows where he can call or whom he can contact to get assistance,â he said.
Dr. Gafarasi says that they aim at equipping farmers with the necessaryÂ knowledge so as to perform certain treatments on their animals without even requiringÂ to call a vet.
âFor instance, when we are fighting against tsetse flies, we explain to people how we can put a trap to attract tsetse flies. We have extension services to explain to the people what they can do themselves without calling the vets. We build their capacities in such practices as castration, dehorning, among others,â he said.
ONE CUP OF MILK PER CHILD
The One Cup Of Milk Per Child Program is currently being implemented inÂ 112Â schools from fifteen Districts andÂ eight three thousand and five hundred and seventyÂ fiveÂ (83,575) pupils are on the program.
Rwanda Agriculture Board started the One Cup of Milk per Child Program in May 2010Â as an implementation of the outcomes of theÂ Integrated Development Program (IDP) meeting held at MINALOC in 2010.
At first,Â the program started piloting in 6 Districts of Bugesera, Kamonyi, Nyanza, Karongi, Gakenke and Ngororero districts . After a trial period of one year and half that showed that it is possible to run a school milk program in the country, the scaling up was approved in a meeting held on on July 2011 and started being implemented in October 2011.
In the said meeting, MINAGRI was recommended to scale up the program to other Districts and Schools and to increase the number of children beneficiaries from 21,300 to 100,000. MINEDUC and MINISANTE were also requested to identify the needy Districts and Schools. After different consultation meetings of the three concerned Ministries includingÂ MINALOC, eight (8) new Districts of Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru, Gisagara, Huye, Nyamasheke, Rubavu, Rutsiro, Ngoma and Ngororero wereÂ entered in the scaling up of the program.
Other new schools from existing Districts were also added by the year 2013 and among them six schools were from Nyanza, two from Ruhango and four new schools from Gisagara.Â Currently, the program is being implemented inÂ 112Â schools from fifteen Districts andÂ eight three thousand and five hundred and seventh fiveÂ (83,575) pupils are on the program.
The pupils are given milk of standard quality from Rwandan recognized dairies namely INYANGE INDUSTRIES and AGRO PROCESSING INDUSTRIES (API).Â They take half liter twice a week which makes whole liter per week.
The General Objective of One cup of Milk per Child Program is to address the current problem of Malnutrition among children in Rwanda and to lay a foundation of milk and dairy productsâ consumption habit and stimulate the development of the Dairy sector in Rwanda.
The specific objectives are to provide milk to school going children in order to:
i)Â Â Improve their nutrition status
ii)Â Improve on their brain capacity development,
iii)Â Hunger elimination
iv)Â Â Habit of consuming milk at the earlier age of the child
v)Â Reduce post-harvest losses by Developing dairy sector industries.