Small-scale farmers have decried the cost of effective irrigation techniques needed to avoid dependence on rain-fed agriculture.
The farmers said that effective irrigation technologies (one set made up with an engine and irrigation accessories) are expensive, costing over Rwf1 million.
“These irrigation technologies can ensure good yields by making farmers resilient to drought, but they are out of reach for many small-scale farmers. Farmers growing crops on five to 10 hectares are the ones who can afford them,” said a tomato farmer from Rukomo Sector, Nyagatare District.
Another farmer, Joseph Gafaranga, said with effective irrigation techniques farmers can harvest in all seasons.
He recalled that he grew his Irish potato seeds on one-hectare land in Musanze District after he had bought Irish potato seeds at about Rwf350 a kilogramme, and planted two tonnes of the seeds on one hectare.
Irish potatoes take up to three to four months to mature.
With no rain during the planting season, and signs of rain within two months that could help his crops to grow well, Gafaranga had to think about irrigation to ensure a good yield but the irrigation equipment was expensive.
He harvested 15 tonnes per hectare, but could have harvested more had he applied irrigation effectively.
To manage to irrigate his crops, Gafaranga explains there was a ditch which was made near his field and a dam sheet was laid into it to retain the rain water that was channeled into it.
It’s that water which was used by people who were watering the potatoes by use of watering cans.
He sold his Irish potato produce at Rwf170 a kilogramme then.
Talking about investment and the additional cost for irrigation, he said that to produce a kilogramme of Irish potatoes, he invested Rwf110, and that irrigation activities added some Rwf10 making it Rwf120 to produce one kilogramme.
He paid people to irrigate his Irish potato garden.
Gafaranga is one of the farmers who attended the recent 12th National Agriculture Show at Mulindi show ground in Kigali.
He noted that he learnt about the technique of growing crops without relying on rain from study tours in Mali and Burkina Faso.
Now, he has embraced the system.
“Having been able to get such yield by applying rudimentary irrigation technique, it would be more productive to use the advanced irrigation technologies currently available on the market,” Gafaranga told The New Times.
Meteo information helped
Gafaranga said that, in the 2016 agriculture season A, which started from February 2016 and ended in June 2016, he planted ‘Kirundo’ Irish potato seed variety, which grows to maturity within three months compared to other varieties that take four months.
He planted variety after getting information from the Rwanda Meteorology Agency that warned farmers about impending drought that was to set in weeks after planting.
As a result, Gafaranga said that drought hit crops after his potatoes had produced tubers, and he harvested about 27 tonnes of Irish potato per hectare, while other farmers who grew varieties that take long to mature got lower yields.
Gerardine Mukeshimana, the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the ministry helps small-scale farmers to acquire irrigation equipment through government subsidy.
“While farmers benefit from the facility, they need to put in more efforts so that they can make the most of it. Through increased revenue they can afford such technologies on their own,” she noted.
This 2017 agriculture show was held under the theme, ‘‘Adopt climate resilient technologies.’’
According to figures from the ministry, over 45,000 hectares are irrigated so far, of which about 5,600 are covered under small scale irrigation whereby the government covers 50 per cent of the cost as subsidy.