Crop breeding is an essential to promote Rwanda’s food security, Geraldine Mukeshimana, the Minister for Agriculture, has said.
The Minister was yesterday speaking at a plant breeders’ conference organised by Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) at Gorilla Hotel in Nyarutarama, Gasabo District-Kigali.
The Minister noted that crop breeding also improves the incomes of farmers.
“Through agricultural transformation, farmers who engage in crop breeding stand a better chance to obtain both high-value produce and more income,” Mukeshimana said.
According to the Minister, breeding of new plant varieties improves the quality of seeds, which ensures that farmers harvest high yields while promoting sustainable development.
“Farmers should embrace modern methods of farming that can help withstand climate change, while maintaining soil fertility,” she advised.
She noted that plant breeding also facilitates seed availability among communities.
Dr Daphrose Gahakwa, the head of research at Rwanda Agricultural Board, however cautioned farmers against conducting agricultural activities in a hasty manner.
“Plant breeding needs a lot of time, so farmers should be patient while carrying out the process in order to produce quality seeds and plants,” she urged. “Modern plant breeding can be useful in creating resistant crop varieties,” Gahakwa noted.
“Diseases like the cassava brown streak or cassava mosaic can be overcome by producing new varieties that are resistant,” she said
“This is important because, recently, we have had cases of cassava diseases devastating the crop in different parts of the country.”
While conducting agricultural activities, farmers are advised to maintain soil fertility to benefit from maximum crop production, she added. This is because African farmers typically harvest one tonne of maize per hectare, while farmers from other parts of the world harvest up to five tonnes per hectare.
Joe Devries, the director of AGRAs programme for African Seed Systems (PASS), said crop breeding could only make sense if linked with crop production and ensuring soil health through the use of fertilisers.
“New crops can handle environmental changes, and improved varieties of maize, rice and beans have been successful in most African countries where soil health is maintained,” Devries said.
AGRA deals with agricultural products in Africa and promotes sustainable seed supply, building capacity of small-scale farmers and production of disease-resistant varieties.