Asteria Uwamahoro, 42, a resident of Muyumbu Sector in Eastern Province’s Rwamagana District, recalls how she wanted fertilisers from agro-dealers but couldn’t afford to pay for the input in cash.
This is now history following the inauguration of a new warehouse in Kayonza District which stores agricultural inputs (seeds and fertiliser) to enable their timely delivery to farmers in the province.
The warehouse, which was inaugurated on Tuesday, is expected to increase grain production by up to 25,000 tonnes, according to officials.
The warehouse was constructed by an organisation called One Acre Fund – TUBURA.
One Acre Fund is agriculture focused social entreprise that is innovating a new way of helping families to achieve their full potential, and to eradicate hunger and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Uwamahoro has been harvesting, at most, 50 kilograms of maize from her small farm because of lack of access to fertiliser, coupled with poor farming methods.
Egide Gatari, the Agricultural Subsidies Programne manager at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), observed that, apart from bringing fertiliser close to farmers, One Acre Fund sells fertilisers on credit, which enables smallholder farmers to easily use fertilisers to increase their output.
Farmers pay for the fertilisers within a period of six months, and also undergo training.
Uwamahoro told The New Times that she was now more optimistic about farming.
“I now harvest about 400 kilograms from the same farmland where I used to get 50 kilogrammes.”
The country director of One Acre Fund, Eric Pohlman said this year over 2,000 tonnes of seeds and fertilizer from the warehouse are being delivered to 203 retail points in Eastern Province in collaboration with Agro Processing Trust Corporation Ltd (APTC), a local firm.
The facility was built at a tune of Rwf200 million, with capacity to store about 46,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser and seeds, as per information from the organisation.
“After receiving their inputs, over 55,000 [farmers] will plant using good agricultural practices,” Pohlman said, adding that with the warehouse and seeds, grain production in Eastern Province is expected to increase by 25,000 tonnes.
RAB’s Gatari said that previously farmers had to travel long distances to buy inputs.
He observed that agricultural inputs warehouses are largely in Kigali [at Kigali Special Economic Zone], yet most of the farmers are in the countryside.
Major Canisius Kayitera, a business developer at APTC, also said proximity to facilities such as warehouse matters to farmers.
Speaking during the event, the Minister of State in charge of Agriculture, Fulgence Nsengiyumva commended One Acre Fund’s initiative to set up the facility upcountry.
He urged all seed and fertiliser importers to set up stores in districts to ease farmers’ access to such inputs in a timely manner.
“All the seed and fertiliser importers should not maintain stores in Kigali only. They should have ways to bring inputs to upcountry districts because that is where farmers are,” he said, noting that delays in farming services adversely affect production.
Nsengiyumva noted that sustainable food security and more agriculture contribution to the country’s economy requires availing quality and highly productive seeds to farmers.
Under the government subsidy programme, around 5,000 tonnes of maize, soya bean and wheat are used countrywide.
An average of 33,000 tonnes of fertiliser are used every year in Rwanda, according to figures from RAB.
For the fiscal year 2017/2018, RAB projected 50,500 tonnes of balanced mineral fertiliser required to enable farmers achieve significant increase in production.