Rugende marshland that straddles three districts of Kicukiro, Gasabo and Rwamagana, will be developed and used for multiplication of maize seed, cultivation of rice, vegetables and growing fodder for cows, according to officials.
About 120.5 hectares will be used for the multiplication of maize seed, 120 hectares for rice, 137.4 hectares for cattle farms, and 6.5 hectares for vegetables.
Speaking from the marshland site last week, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fulgence Nsengiyumva, said that the move to use part of the marshland for maize seed multiplication is in line with the government’s drive to produce seeds locally so as to reduce or phase out imports of seed, which sometimes have been reaching farmers late because of import procedures, or were not suitable.
According to officials from the Agriculture Ministry and the Rwanda the Rural Sector Support Programme (RSSP) – which focuses on marshland development in the country – the cultivation of the marshland should start from February 22, 2018 and be completed on March 15 so as to avoid delays in implementing the farming season B for 2018.
The marshland has 400 hectares, and will benefit about 844 residents, including 447 women from the three districts.
The officials were speaking on Friday during an assessment of the development activities for the marshland.
The development activities for the marshland started in March 2016 and through May 2017, and to October 2017 for the dam.
About Rwf2.5 billion for the development of the marshland, including Rwf1.5 billion spent on dam construction, and over Rwf100 million, was used to set up post-harvest handling infrastructure, said Ramazan Bizimana, marshland development engineer at RSSP.
“Our first commitment as the ministry is to ensure food security for Rwandans. We should try our best, and partner with any concerned entity so that we get enough food for every Rwandan, and any one residing in Rwanda,” said Nsengiyumva.
Farmers who will multiply the seeds will get basic seed from Rwanda Agriculture Board, which they will multiply to produce certified seeds which will subsequently be given to farmers. The basic seeds should be paid in cash.
But, Jean Gahozaho, the president of a cooperative of multipliers of improved seeds in Rugende Marshland, said that though they are committed to duplicating seeds, they lack finance to buy seeds and fertilisers to carry out the activity mainly because farmers stopped their activities for months when the marshland was being reclaimed.
The coop has 350 members, of whom 191 are women. He said that farmers have been encountering losses during drought because they had no water to irrigate their crops.
Under the government’s 50 subsidy on small-scale irrigation equipment, Gahozaho said, the farmers have done their best and bought about 17 small-scale irrigation machines for over Rwf3 million so they are able to tackle drought effects on crops.
The Kicukiro District Mayor, Dr Jeanne Nyirahabimana, said that they want to involve savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) so that farmers get seeds and fertilisers on credit and pay later.
She said that having about 130 hectares of land on which to multiply maize seeds is a very demanding task in terms of skills, which calls for technical assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture to farmers.
“There is need for the district and MINAGRI to provide more support to farmers to control disease such as armyworm in a bid to produce quality seeds,” she said.
The in-charge of seed inspection at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Beatrice Niyokwizigirwa, said they will ensure the monitoring of the farmers’ maize crop through all stages of growth such that seed quality will be achieved.
As of per figures from RAB for 2017, Rwanda imports about 3,000 metric tonnes of seeds (hybrid maize, wheat and soybean), worth about Rwf3 billion per year.
“The seeds you will multiply will be given to many farmers for cultivation. So, you should put in efforts,” he told the multipliers.
The dam that was constructed as part of the development of the marshland covers an area of 29.5 hectares, and it can irrigate the over 400 hectares.
The water dam, with capacity to store about 1.32 million cubic meters of water, will help production of crop yield all seasons, including the dry one, according to Nsengiyumva.
Nsengiyumva pointed out that farmers should optimise the marshland so as to reap big from the funds that the government used to prepare the marshland.
“We should get means to irrigate priority crops [during dry spell] so that we maximise their production potential; and, those growing such crops should do it professionally,” he observed.
The average rice produce per hectare is 5.5 tonnes, and about five tonnes for maize, according to figures from Rwanda Agriculture Board. About 25 kilogrammes of maize seed are grown per hectare.