When Celestin Munyambabazi and a few other farmers decided, six years ago, to shift from traditional to modern farming, they were not quite sure of how they would fair.
As farmers who had earlier used traditional methods of farming, they believed mixing crops could help them increase their productivity as opposed to planting one crop.
“We used to mix crops and the harvest was average. We suffered a lot because of that system of farming,” he says.
The Musanze District farmer says local leaders and agriculture experts sensitised them about modern farming but some were reluctant until he and a few others decided to adopt the modern farming system.
“It was not until 2008 that we started adopting modern farming. We started as a small group of less than 15 people,” he said, adding that their productivity started improving and other farmers also started joining them.
Currently, the famer and his colleagues have founded a cooperative, Twizamure Cyuve, comprising 220 farmers and have consolidated their 75 hectares of land.
He says since they formed the cooperative, they adopted modern farming, including using hybrid seeds and fertilisers, among other measures.
Currently, the cooperative rotates maize and Irish potatoes and production has increased fourfold for both crops.
“Before we embraced modern farming, we only produced for subsistence and our produce could not be stored,” he said.
Munyambabazi said he has since managed to renovate his house, install electricity and water in it thanks to modern farming.
“The maize produce has increased. We used to harvest less than a tonne per hectare but now, it has increased to four tonnes per hectare,” said Elina Tuyisenge, a member of the cooperative.
“Before I joined the cooperative, I couldn’t even produce enough to feed my family but the produce has now increased. For instance, last season, I earned Rwf1.4 million from Maize alone and I expect to earn more this season,” Tuyisenge said.
Farmers also attributed the bumper harvest to other partners such as International Fertilisers for Development Centre (IFDC) that mobilised them and supplied fertilisers.
But farmers still have some market challenges as they say, for the last two seasons, they have lacked market for their produce.
They used to sell their produce to Rwanda Agriculture Board (Rab) and made some profits but for the last two seasons, the clients pulled out and farmers were compelled to sell the produce at low prices hence counting losses.
Jean Claude Izamuhaye, Rab provincial director, said maize production has increased thanks to land consolidation and modern farming practices.
He said maize was planted on over 140,000 hectares and they are expecting to harvest five tonnes per hectare.
Izamuhaye hailed members of the cooperative and pledged to avail market for their produce as long as they adopt best post-harvest practices.
He said Rab had helped establish agriculture committees from the grassroots up to the national level that will help farmers.
He said farmers will be linked to East African Commodity Exchange and processing industries, schools and prisons as well as local small scale processing units, among others.