Agriculture zoning could help attract more investments into the sector as well as ensure food security and increase household incomes of farmers, experts have said. The 13 livelihood zones were developed and delimitated by government in partnership with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Each of the identified zones is expected to focus on specific crop or crops, depending on issues like rainfall patterns of the areas and topography, among others.
The initiative promotes small-scale agricultural water management technologies; namely river diversion schemes, soil and water conservation, and water harvesting for irrigation in the zones.
According to Dr Otto Vianney Muhinda, the FAO assistant representative in Rwanda, the project seeks to increase food production, improve household incomes, as well as reduce poverty and attract investments into the sector, especially in irrigation schemes.
He said agriculture in Rwanda is dominated by small-scale, subsistence, rain-fed farming, noting that the project will help tap the sector’s huge potential and improve the livelihoods of rural farmers besides making it more resilient to increase agricultural productivity.
The FAO official was speaking during a recent workshop to validate the maps of the delimitated zones.
Hamson Micomyiza, the acting head of irrigation, terraces development and mechanisation division at Rwanda Agriculture Board, said it is important to promote initiatives that ensure effective water management and use “as climate change increasingly threatens the agricultural production and people’s livelihoods.
“Productivity of the agriculture sector is mainly enhanced by three major drivers – water for agriculture, inputs, and fertilisers. Therefore, the livelihood zones will guide investment and the required interventions to ensure sustainable production,” he said.
Managing high cost of irrigation equipment
Micomyiza said the sector still faces many challenges, including the high cost of irrigation equipment and developing of irrigation schemes especially in hilly areas of the country, where it is hard to pump water.
“We will continue to design irrigation projects and subsidise the cost of small irrigation equipment by 50 per cent for farmers with 0.7 hectare. So far over 48,000 hectares have been irrigated both in valleys and hillsides,” he said.
Micomyiza noted that the mapping will help orient intervention projects according to the agriculture activities carried out in specific zones.
“This mapping will also help us show where development partners and investors can intervene in the provision of irrigation projects as the zones give a clear picture of the country as far as agriculture production is concerned,” he added.
What farmers say
Eugene Ntagengerwa, a farmer in Bugesera District, said the cost of irrigation equipment is still a challenge despite a 50 per cent government subsidy on small irrigation equipment.
“The cost of irrigation equipment is high, while maintenance is sometimes also difficult because spare parts are not on local market,” Ntagengerwa said.
He argued that there must be big irrigation schemes for small scale irrigation to thrive.
“We also need to consolidate land and ease access to market,” he added who carries out farming activities near Lake Cyohoha.
Monique Buteto, the in charge of irrigation at Burera District, called for a bigger price waiver of 75 per cent for small irrigation equipment, especially for farmers classified in first and second categories of ubudehe.
She claimed farmers in these categories cannot afford small irrigation equipment though they benefit from the 50 per cent government subsidy.