Jean-Claude Ruzibiza is not worried about climate change which has been a universal challenge to agricultural productivity.
A computerised greenhouse is protecting his produce against extreme weather patterns and enabling him to annually harvest about 30 tonnes of tomatoes and 19 tonnes of bell pepper (poivron) on an 800 square metre plot of land.
The Rulindo District-based farmer and father of six, told The New Times that the technology enables him to harvest quality produce and ensure a sustainable out put.
He said other benefits of planting in the greenhouse is that it protects farmers against common challenges of water shortage and drought or even excess water resulting from climate change, which affect crop productivity.
“I harvest all the time, I do not get impeded by the sun or rain,” he says noting that he can harvest 400 kilogrammes of bell pepper per week from half of his farm.
Thanks to his quality produce, the farmer supplies commodities to supermarkets and hotels with a kilogramme of tomatoes being sold at between Rwf400 and Rwf500, while bell pepper costs between Rwf1,000 and Rwf1,500.
These figures mean that the technology helps the farmer earn about Rwf30 million a year on the 800 m2 plot.
His greenhouse is divided into two parts with one designed for tomato growing, the other for bell pepper growing.
These bell peppers, which he said he introduced in Rwanda about two years ago, are tasty, good-flavoured, and have started flooding the market, mainly in Kigali.
Installation of the facility cost him 50,000 Euros (about Rwf44 million).
Such technology he described as cost-effective was developed in Netherlands. He grew the first crops using the technology in November 2015.
Ruzibiza explained that it is cost-effective in that it results in optimal use of natural resources and agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and water so as to produce more on relatively small land.
He said that he started with ordinary farming but gradually moved to growing crops in a greenhouse.
“Such a greenhouse is the answer to Rwanda’s land shortage challenge. For us to ensure food security and have surplus for the market, it is mandatory to use technology so that we harvest more on small acreage,” he said.
He said that the computer uses internet services such that he and his agronomist can follow its operations every second, either on phone or computer anytime and anywhere.
“I can follow up my farming activities, including how the computer regulates and responds to irrigation needs by ensuring the quantity of water and fertilisers suitable to each crop so that crops grow properly. I am following all such figures, data and the technology gives me reports on a daily basis,” he said.
How the technology works
Set up in Bushoki Sector, Rulindo District, the greenhouse stands 40-meters long and 20 meters wide.
The soil used is first steamed (heat) at 100 degrees Celsius to disinfect it against bacterial agents which can be harmful to the crops.
Then, the soil is put into small bucket-like containers and vegetable seedlings are planted there.
The water is also checked to ensure that it is free of bacteria that can harm the crops, before being used.
The greenhouse uses drip irrigation technology, which feeds each crop in the container.
It also uses fertilizer soluble in water which feeds the crops.
Ruzibiza said that the system is efficient, enabling the crop’s roots to get the necessary nutrients.
Rulindo vice mayor for Finance and Economic Development, Prosper Mulindwa told The New Times that the district prioritises modern farming practices that will use technologies to ensure food security and meet agro-processing industry demands in the district and economic development, citing a focus on high value crops such as vegetables and fruits.
“Farmers can form cooperatives and get loans in financial institutions so that they can carry out farming practices in such greenhouses because they are beneficial. What we will do as the district leadership, we will offer them advice and technical support. Harvesting over 30 tonnes of vegetables on that small land is commendable,” he said referring to Ruzibiza’s greenhouse.