In line with its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Rwanda is moving towards a green revolution and more of its population has contextualized the revolution.
This is through the development of agriculture technology in rural farmers.
The new technological breakthroughs to increase food yields, gives optimism about the possibility of feeding the ever increasing Rwandan population.
The Rwandan government’s massive public investment in modern agriculture has led to dramatic yields in most rural Rwanda.
Nathalie Niwumugeni an agriculture officer working in Kirehe district said that agriculture in Rwanda has generally improved, and is set to be at its height, in a few years to come.
According to Niwumugeni, a variety of fertilizers and pesticides are available at subsidized prices, to all farmers in the country. And these fertilizer subsidies have been one of the cornerstones of Rwanda’s agricultural development program.
“Modern plant breeding has improved agronomy and the development of artificial fertilizers and pesticides fuelled these advances. In few years to come, we shall have achieved sustainable food surpluses and eliminated the threat of starvation,” she said.
Since its inception, the policy of land consolidation has drastically checked the effects of land fragmentation. The consolidation of fragmented areas resulted in improved agricultural productivity in most of rural Rwanda.
In Rwanda, land consolidation is regarded as an instrument or entry point for rural development. That it has been internalized by the local population and their leaders, gives hope for gross agricultural production in the country.
“The wide range of rural development objectives, ranging from agricultural improvement to village renewal and landscape development and protection, were addressed through land consolidation projects,” Niwumugeni remarked.
Even though such agricultural improvements are still essential, rural area are no longer left for agricultural production alone.
Concepts of rural development have become diverse and have expanded to include increased environmental awareness and a wide range of non-agricultural applications.
These include landscape maintenance, nature conservation, recreation and transportation—in places where land is required for the construction of major roads.
Advancements in agriculture are closely linked to mechanisation, which is why Rwanda was prompted to import specialized tractors to handle cultivation.
Tractors have been dispatched to farmers who have accessed them at subsidized payments per hectare; however the charge varies from one region to another.
The reliance on hand hoes has increasingly frustrated rural farmer for years, due to the minimal produce each season. As a result they were stuck at subsistence farming to support their families.
Protais Murayira the Mayor of Kirehe district, Eastern province said that hand hoe agriculture, is so frustrating and has been responsible for the marginalization of farmers.
“Farmers have tilled their land for years using hand hoes and their production has always been miserable, not even enough to feed their families. That’s why we introduced the use of tractors in farming,” Murayira said.
“With tractors, farmers can cultivate huge chunks of land in a very short time and at a relatively cheaper price. The use of hand hoes is expensive in every way; it wastes time and energy that could be used for more productivity,” he said.
Challenges of agriculture mechanization
Agricultural mechanisation also comes with its challenges. Ranging from machinery acquisition and use, to maintenance and hiring.
Tractors are still very few. Many farmers have to wait for weeks and sometimes months before their turn. This puts farmers who depend on rainfall for cultivation at risk, since the season may come to an end before their turn to hire a tractor.
It is also expensive for the government to purchase the required machines for all farmers.
More so, the topography of Rwanda is equally problematic. The country’s hilly and swampy landscape makes it tough for farmers who use tractors for cultivation.
“The country’s landscape mostly consists of hills and mountains, and this hinders the development of extensive mechanized agriculture. There are also swampy areas that do not favour the type of tractors we are using currently—we a yet to confront such challenges head on,” said Emmanuel Dusangumuremyi an agricultural officer.
For centuries, agriculture in Rwanda has been handled manually while employing a few simple tools that are supplemented slightly by domesticated oxen in some areas.
On the other hand, the pros of agricultural mechanization outweigh its cons. In this regard, with the continual support of the government, more rural farmers will embrace modern farming methods as a way towards increased productivity and sustainable development.