One of the things highlighted in a joint statement issued during the visit of President Paul Kagame to India early in the week, was the development of the Export Targeted Irrigated Agriculture Project and its expansion under India’s lines of credit to the tune of $120 million.
The project will bring irrigation facilities to Mpanga and Mahama sectors of Kirehe District.
It will see the construction of watershed works, farm mechanisation and establishment of post-harvest processing units for agricultural produce.
According to Innocent Nzeyimana, Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB)’s head of land husbandry, irrigation and mechanisation department, the net area to be irrigated under the project is 5,000 hectares, but the entire scheme will cover a total of 7,000 hectares. This area includes the surface occupied by infrastructures such as roads and buildings under the project.
In a document dated October 7, 2016, that sought to hire individual consultants in the field of irrigation development, RAB described the project as one to help achieve “a long-term sustainable agriculture growth.”
So, what does the project mean to the agriculture sector in the district and the economy at large?
Kirehe District mayor Gerald Muzungu told Sunday Times that once the project has been implemented, it will solve the challenge of drought by about 80 percent.
He noted that farmers have been growing beans, maize and banana, but said through irrigation, they will be able to focus on high value crops such as vegetables like tomatoes and fresh beans.
“On top of that, under the project study, there is an area where rice will be grown. It could not be grown previously as there was no enough water,” he said.
“In ‘good times’, we get higher produce than other places,” said Louise Nyirahabineza, the president of COACLMA – a cooperative of farmers who grow cereals and legumes in Mahama sector.
“We largely grow maize, beans and soya, but, when drought sets in, we do not harvest enough food to feed our children,” Nyirahabineza told Sunday Times.
She noted that though their fields are near Akagera River, they cannot afford to irrigate their crops, saying an effective irrigation system under the project will ensure sustainable development.
The Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana, said the project is a contribution to the district’s agriculture productivity, especially as the district has been prone to drought.
She said that the tendering process for the project is underway as the study for the project implementation has been completed.
In August 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources signed a memorandum of understanding with Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited (WAPCOS Ltd) for the implementation of Export Targeting Modern Irrigated Agriculture Project (ETI).
WAPCOS Ltd) is a consultancy organisation and public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Water Resources of the government of India.
WAPCOS Ltd., on December 11, 2013, signed a contract of implementation with MINAGRI to progress with the technical cooperation as mandated by the MoU.
According to MINAGRI, ETI will see a number of irrigation infrastructures constructed, a biomass power plant, value addition facilities for particular crops, greenhouses for vegetables, tomatoes, and fruit plants, and watershed management works.
The water for irrigation will be pumped from Akagera River.
Information from RAB shows that about 45,000 hectares are under irrigation in the country, while the government targets to irrigate 100,000 hectares by 2020.