Some 1,571 farming households from sectors of Bugesera and Ngoma districts surrounding the developed Gashora Marshland have pledged to produce at least eight tonnes of rice per hectare from the land allocated to them in the swamp.
Each household was allocated a-quarter of a hectare and beneficiaries were drawn from five sectors; Mayange, Juru, Ririma, and Gashora in Bugesera District while in Ngoma District it is Rukumberi Sector.
The average rice yield per hectare is 5.6 tonnes, according to information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI).
Speaking to The New Times, the president of KODUMUGA, Laurent Hakizamungu a cooperative grouping of rice farmers in the Gashora Marshland, said the farmers will start growing rice from January 20. Rice is harvested twice a year.
He said the trials they made in 2013 under Farmer Field Schools (FFS) thanks to rice seeds provided by the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) yielded over 11.75 tonnes per hectare.
“Because the quality [and fertility] of the marshland might not be the same, we have a target to produce at least eight tonnes per hectare on average. The produce will increase as farmers get accustomed to good farming practices such that we at least reach 10 tonnes per hectare,” he said.
“You understand that if a farmer is going to get over Rwf500,000 in six months from rice sales, it translates to more than Rwf1 million per year. By so doing, we will be able to cover the cost of rice production and solve other problems like paying for Mutuelle de Santé and rid our families of malnutrition,” Hakizamungu said.
The 750 hectares of the Gashora Marshland were developed at a tune of over Rwf7.3 billion under the Rwf16 billion six-year Bugesera Natural Region Rural Infrastructure Support Project (PAIRB) to enable farmers make use of it to improve their livelihood.
The project wound up last week.
Of the 750 hectares, about 500 were earmarked for rice growing, while 250 hectares are for the cultivation of vegetables and fruits, according to Dr Michel Ngarambe, the project coordinator.
Water dike, pumping stations
To enable effective utilisation of the Marshland, Ngarambe told The New Times that a 15.8-kilometre water dike that prevents Nyabarongo River from flooding the marshland was erected; two water pumping stations of which one takes water into the marshland for irrigation and another that drains the marshland if need be were also set up.
An 11-kilometre electric line was put in place to avail power that will be used to pump water to use in the marshland, according to Ngarambe.
The project’s objective was to improve food security in Bugesera through a sustainable increase in agricultural production.
Before the development of the marshland, Hakizamungu said, farmers would struggle to cultivate crops because the Nyabarongo water would flood the marshland, especially during rainy season.
Dr Ngarambe said they have bought needed rice seeds and fertilisers that the farmers will use for the initial cultivation, adding that the farmers will be covering the inputs for themselves in the future.
Hakizamungu said some 600 farmers have been empowered in terms of seed multiplication to be able to get seeds by themselves in the future, citing 25 farmers who have been selected to carry out rice seed multiplication activities.
Rice production in 2016 was 110,544 tonnes according to figures from MINAGRI.
As per the National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS), produced by MINAGRI in 2013, Rwanda imported about 40,000 tonnes of rice per year. Over the last five years, rice production has increased by 23 per cent.
In Rwanda, rice is cultivated mainly in the marshlands over an average area of some 7,350 hectares.
Under NRDS, it is envisaged that the productivity level will rise from 5.72 tonnes per Ha in 2012 to 7.0 tonnes / per hectare by 2018 and expand the area under rice cultivation to 28,500 by 2018 so that the country becomes self-reliant in rice production.