Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) has introduced 10 wheat varieties that are expected to boost production thanks to their high yield potential and resilience to biotic stresses.
The varieties are rich in proteins and have potential to boost nutrition and economic growth in the country.
Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture presented the varieties to stakeholders last month at Rwerere Research Centre, in Burera District, Northern Province.
According to Fulgence Nsengiyumva, the State Minister for Agriculture, the new varieties will be a major relief to the nation as Rwanda currently imports wheat seeds and wheat.
He said that currently locally grown varieties serve domestic consumption and basic scale baking while large scale consumers have to import.
“This is, therefore, a good incentive for farmers, to multiply these new seeds to have enough produce in the future,” said Nsengiyumva.
Innocent Habarurema, the head of wheat sub-programme at RAB, said the target is to end import of wheat seeds by 2019.
He said that RAB will work with professional seeds multipliers to ensure more seeds are multiplied locally and distributed to farmers.
“Unlike other varieties, the new ones are rich in protein – between 12 per cent to 13 per cent while others have 10 percent or less, meaning the new varieties have the potential to be used in baking industry,” Habarurema said.
At least between $35 million and $40 million is spent on wheat grains imports.
RAB imported 4,000 tonnes of seeds under Crop Intensification programme between 2007 and 2014, according to Habarurema.
The magical multiplication
Habarurema said research started with only 10 grammes of basic seeds on a small area which were multiplied to get over 5 tonnes of seeds, which will be shared between RAB and seeds multipliers.
On the current available seeds, Habarurema said RAB will work with professional farmers to multiply them.
“We can produce over 100 tonnes per year if seed multipliers engage in professional multiplications, we will initially work with few cooperatives who will distribute seeds to their colleagues for multiplication,” he said.
According to Habarurema, seeds multiplication is easier when best practices are applied. For instance, 1 tonne of seeds can generate between 15 tonnes and 30 tonnes.
“We held a meeting with seeds suppliers. In other subsequent meetings we hope to streamline the work of multipliers and farmers. We want to build a strong seed value chain and are hopeful we will succeed,” he added.
Wheat is grown in hilly areas mainly in Northern Province and parts of Western Province. There are over 100 wheat growing cooperatives countrywide.
Local leaders and farmers welcomed the new seed variety as a boon to production.
They promised to put in more efforts to maximise yields and enhance multiplication.
“We are very grateful for the new varieties, the varieties we had were old and unproductive. We are hopeful that the new ones will help us improve productivity for both consumption and sale,” said Samuel Semarembo, a farmer.
Florence Uwambajimana, the Burera District mayor, hailed RAB for introducing the new varieties in the district and urged farmers to use the opportunity to increase production.