GATSIBO/NYAGATARE — For a long period of time, many livestock farmers in the country have depended on traditional farming methods which are mainly subsistence.
However, the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) is spearheading modern agriculture in the Eastern Province, in order to encourage commercial farming.
According to EADD officials, this is the only way Rwandan farmers will be able to catch up with farmers in other East African countries.
The EADD is a regional industry development programme implemented by Heifer International with a conglomerate of partners like TechnoServe, ILRI, The World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and ABS TCM.
For the successful implementation of its targets, EADD has been conducting a number of training sessions to empower farmers carry out modern farming.
The field officers say there is remarkable change in the attitude as many farmers are adopting new methods.
Harriett Nkunda, a business adviser with Technoserve, believes that in two years time, EADD’s target of increasing farmers’ earnings will be accomplished.
“First of all we want every farmer’s income to increase from one dollar to a minimum of 2 US $ a day. This is among our commitments in improving the livelihoods of farmers in eastern region,” she said.
Nkunda, admits that there is need to implement a lot of changes in order to achieve this target.
“We have already implemented about 75% of our commitments. We hope that by the end of the project in 2011, we will have gone beyond 100%,” she said.
The project has equipped farmers’ centers especially in Nyagatare and Kirebe with computers and printers to help them to run their milk collection centres well.
In addition, farmers in the region were taken for study tours where they acquired more skills from successful farmers.
This year, 80 farmers have gone for study tours in Uganda and Kenya.
This, according to Nkunda, has exhibited a tremendous improvement among farmers.
“After these study tours, farmers have affirmed that they can even do better. They got chance of meeting farmers in Kenya who milk thousands of liters of milk yet they graze on a small piece of land.
Most of them believe that with extensive farms they own, they can even do better than their Kenyan counterparts,” said Nkunda.
Farmers have also been taught to harvest water and grass to ensure constant and timely feeding of cows.
“We help farmers to formulate business plans. Four farming cooperatives will this year get loans from the Rwanda Development Bank (BRD),” Nkunda added.
Training and workshops given to farmers
According to Asiimwe Rebecca, Techno serve’s a business adviser in charge of the Kabarore Sector; the training sessions have equipped farmers with different skills.
One of the biggest challenges EADD has faced to develop farming system in Eastern Province is water, foot and mouth disease that has grown in the region and lack of enough milk to serve milk collection centres.