The Crop Intensification Programme (CIP), implemented since 2007 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, has yet to deliver expected results.
Farmers said this Thursday during a public debate about the role of local leaders in implementing CIP and irrigation.
The debate, held at Rubengera Sector in Karongi District, was organised by Election Media Civil Societies and Democracy in Rwanda, a local NGO, with support from Panos Great Lakes Institute.
The ministry implements CIP as part of efforts to attain the Government’s goal to increase agricultural productivity.
The programme has four key components; to facilitate access to improved inputs, land use consolidation, proximity of extension services and post-harvest handling and storage.
It is supposed to help consolidate small and fragmented land holdings belonging to smallholder farmers for the production of priority crops by exploiting economies of scale.
It also invests in post-harvest infrastructure and equipment to reduce losses while supporting efforts of dealing with climate change consequences such as droughts, floods and soil erosion.
But citizens who spoke at the dialogue said the programme has not been run well in the region largely due to lack of awareness.
Amur Habimana, a resident of Rubengera Sector, said people are challenged with the package plan, where they are not told the right seeds to plant before the farming season starts.
“It is a challenge because a farmer always needs to grow crops on time, but our case is different, leaders come late to tell us the seeds to plant, and they find when many farmers have decided to grow what they have depending on individual choices,” he said.
Another resident, Adeline Uwababyeyi, said there is need to give them manure and seeds on time.
Fabien Safari, the Karongi District agronomist, acknowledged that there have been challenges in the implementation of the programme.
He said farmers have stuck to traditional agricultural practices, and are reluctant to join cooperatives where most of their concerns can be addressed.
Safari said information gaps exist, but assured farmers that the Government has introduced a new programme dubbed, “Twigire muhinzi,” that will address the issue.
Jeannine Uwihoreye, the head of Rwanda Agricultural Board in Western Province, told the meeting that when a programme is introduced, it needs regular awareness campaigns.
“The Government puts focus on crops that can lead to economic growth, crops that can be stored for long and for exporting,” she said.
The debate attracted Karongi residents and opinions leaders, civil society representatives, political party representatives and farmers.