A five-year agriculture development project has been unveiled and is expected to benefit over 700,000 smallholder farmers in various districts by 2022.
The project, worth $32.6 million (about Rwf27billion) will be implemented under an initiative dubbed Hinga Weze.
Hinga Weze Chief of Party, Daniel Gies, told journalists in Kigali on Thursday that the initiative’s goal is to ensure growing more, selling more and eating better.
“We have a contract with USAID and it says that we must improve productivity of 200,000 farmers by the end of our project. This will be [achieved through] terracing, distributing improved seeds, improving access to finance for farmers so they can acquire improved seeds, access to markets,” he said.
Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze is a five year project under of USAID that started in June 2017.
The primary objective of Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze is to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of Rwandan women and children, and increase resilience of agriculture and food systems to the ever-changing climate.
The beneficiary farmers are in ten districts including Gatsibo, Kayonza, Bugesera and Ngoma (of Eastern Province); Nyabihu, Rutsiro, Ngororero, Nyamasheke, and Karongi (Western Province); and Nyamagabe of Southern Province.
Identification of the project beneficiaries is still ongoing, and district project managers say they approached local leaders to set priorities based on what matches the needs of their residents.
Musa Filippe, a smallholder farmer from Nyakayaga Cell, Kamabuye Sector of Bugesera District, told The New Times that he looks to the project because their area is prone to drought coupled with lack of access to quality seeds, fertilisers, and lack of irrigation technology.
Daniel Gies said they are considering ideas and projects that are locally focused, such as use of solar-powered irrigation, in order to save farmers diesel-running cost [for diesel-powered irrigation].
Some smallholder farmers own less than a hectare of land, and experts in agriculture argue that such famers lack quality seeds and fertilisers, and as a result, they get low yields from their farmland.
According to the fourth Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV4), published by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda in August 2015, the percentage of crop-producing households purchasing improved seeds ranges between 13 per cent in Eastern Province and 26 per cent in Northern Province.
The percentage of households purchasing chemical fertiliser was 36 per cent of households at the a national level.
Increasing access to quality seeds, fertilisers
To improve smallholder farmers’ access to quality seeds, Florence Mukamana, Hinga weze Deputy Chief of Party, said that the focus will be on seed multiplication.
“In Rwanda, we are importing maize and other cereals. We want to focus on seed multiplication for maize, beans, Irish potatoes, etc. With fertilisers, the focus will be on supporting the agro-dealers to be close to the farmers,” she said.
Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) is a USAID contractor leading a consortium of implementing partners for the project.
Sylvain Roy, CNFA president and CEO, said that, by 2050, with the same natural resources such as land and water, the world will have to feed a growing population.
“We think that by adoption, for instance, of improved inputs, more drought-resistant seeds, improved use of fertilisers, appropriate crop protection products, such as pesticides, insecticides, and so on, and also better access to mechanisation will all contribute to improved productivity,” he said.
For job creation through agriculture, Roy said that agro-processing is important to this end.
“You create jobs when you process products, and by creating jobs you increase the size of the middle class. And by doing that the middle class is able to buy more manufactured food,” he said.
He said that it is obviously not easy for a smallholder farmer to get credit, but the project has a $5 million matching grant that may be leveraged to get credit.
The programme targets to have 560,000 households directly benefiting from increased agricultural production and improved nutrition; and 200,000 farmers benefiting from increased yields.
A total of 4,600 hectares of land will be covered.
Some 268,000 hectares of land will be under improved technologies or management practices, according to information from its management.