Farmers in Eastern Province have turned to protected farms or indoor grazing to avoid losing cattle in another foot and mouth disease outbreak.
The move comes weeks after the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources lifted quarantine on livestock which had been put in place following the outbreak of the deadly disease.
George Mushime, a farmer from Karangazi Sector in Nyagatare, lost two cows to the disease recently.
He has embarked on growing fodder on his farm to avail enough pasture for his cattle.
“No more nomadic lifestyle,” he says.
David Rugema, of Kinyana in Murundi Sector, Kayonza District, says that he does not have any reason to continue with traditional farming methods as it has been responsible for recurrent losses.
“At first, I feared having exotic cows because they’re not resistant to diseases caused by tsetse flies in our area but now the Government has provided almost free traps,” he said.
Dr Justin Zimurinda, in charge of livestock at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) in Eastern Province, explains that free range livestock keeping was responsible for spread of diseases.
“Before the public was restricted from encroaching the (Akagera) national park in 2008, there was not a single year that elapsed without bad news of the outbreak of the disease,” said Zimurinda.
It is also understood that many farmers adopted modern farming after realising that long horned indigenous breeds were not profitable.
Peter Maridadi, of Karushuga Rwimiyaga Sector in Nyagatare, who adopted modern farming earlier and grew productive fodder on his farm, says he has never been affected by the disease.
In 2014 Rwandans were evicted from Tanzania and some managed to escape with a few cattle spreading the foot and mouth disease like bush fire.
Since 2015, areas such as Murundi, Rwimbogo and Karangazi in Kayonza, Gatsibo and Nyagatare districts, respectively, hardly a month passed without experiencing a foot and mouth disease outbreak until late 2017.
However, with the consistent quarantine and deaths of cows, farmers are giving up their behaviour of looking for greener pastures in open areas but making their farms greener.
MINAGRI put incentives on fodder seeds, setting up fly traps and had valley dams dug in different areas to provide water to animals.
A kilo of fodder was previously Rwf12,000 but now it costs Rwf1,200. Fly traps used to cost Rwf5000 but its Rwf1,000, thanks to the incentives.
While there is no trace of foot and mouth disease in other provinces for the past few decades, in Eastern Province the epidemic has seriously hit five times in two decades.
The disease appeared in 1998, 2003, 2008, 2012 and 2017.
Due to the quarantine, the disease affects business that would fetch Rwf5 billion in Gatsibo District and nearly Rwf10 billion in Nyagatare District, according statistics on the contribution of dairy sector to district GDP in 2016/2017.
According to Dr Zimurinda, the new trend will not only banish foot and mouth disease but also increase milk production by up to 50 per cent in the next one year.