Traditionally, farming was exclusively done on smallholder basis where farmers only targeted yield to feed their families, and struggled to find market for their little surplus to afford them some groceries.
It was much more difficult with bumper harvest.
Now things have changed as most of the farmers in the country have joined cooperatives and through these, they are increasingly getting meaningful gains from their farming activities.
Market is found easily and they have a better negotiation power, besides through cooperatives, farmers work together and find the market easily.
Members of 76 farmers’ cooperatives from the Eastern and Southern provinces are some of those that gained from this approach.
These farmers have been able to increase production and get market with no trouble thanks to Patient Procurement Platform (PPP), a project implemented by Rwanda Development Organisation in partnership with World Food Programme.
The project promotes sustainable pro-smallholder agricultural value chains with the aim of increasing smallholder farmer income and food security as well as fostering commercial viability for private sector actors.
“We help farmers build their own livelihoods by promoting fair and transparent business with key value chain stakeholders. Our aim is to build trust between smallholder farmers and stakeholders primarily the buyers,” Saori Kitajima, the PPP coordinator said.
“We advocate for them in financial institutions, help them improve production through provision of agricultural techniques, access to quality seeds, fertilisers and other inputs, insurance as well as financing,” added Eugene Rwibasira, Executive Secretary of Rwanda Development Organisation
During the meeting with members of the aforementioned cooperatives, farmers had opportunity to engage in peer learning and interaction with agriculture value chain stakeholders before entering the 2017 A season harvest.
According to farmers, value chain has helped them increase yields, income as well.
“We had limited skills in agriculture and had no one to turn to. Furthermore, we were supposed to seek buyers on our own and often failed to get them or had to settle for low prices. Everything was disorderly. But now we can easily get a loan and serve our needs. Technicians also intervene and offer advice,” said Venantie Mukanyindo from Ngoma District.
Janvier Bikorimana, a farmer from Kamonyi added, “We sign a contract with companies and agree on prices beforehand. This helps us make early planning and meet our needs such as paying health insurance on time. Besides, there was no trust before but now there is trust because buyers are legal and officially recognized”.
Despite the benefits of value chain, farmers complain about buyers who fail to keep promise and delay to pay them.
According to Abdurrahman Sahobangeze, a farmer from Gatsibo, the companies with which they sign contracts sometimes delay to pay or take their produce from stores and they are compelled to wait because they are tied in the contract, even with other ready buyers.
“This imperils our harvest and late payment causes late loan payment, forcing farmers to go on the black market,” said Cassien Karangwa, Commodity value chain trade officer at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and EAC affairs, adding that such issues in value will be ressolved soon.