Norbert Sendege, the director of crop husbandry at Rwanda Agriculture Development Authority (RADA), told The New Times that the rice crop occupies a relatively small place in the Rwandan agriculture despite its great importance.
Sendege revealed that in 2007 only 13,000 hectares out of an intended 66,000 were used for rice cultivation.
“Moreover, this was only just achieved through intense campaigning to promote the rice crop, which has increased from 3.549 hectares in 2000,” Sendege said in an interview at his office recently.
Today the average productivity is four tonnes per hectare annually. This falls short of the government’s target of seven tonnes. Sendege explained that this low productivity is due to poor agriculture practices, lack of pest and disease resistant seeds, inadequate irrigation systems, and fragmented rice plantations.
To boost the production of rice in 2008, at least 7,000 hectares of marshlands will be reclaimed. Irrigation systems will be improved and seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, and equipment will be made available through the government.
The government is considering investing in the reclamation of marshlands to then sell or lease plots of land to private operators. This will ensure sustainability of reclaimed plots, and address the fragmentation problem.
Rice is one of the key foods consumed in Rwanda. Market for the crop is more or less assured. Furthermore, there are export opportunities within the region. Rice can be cultivated in valleys prone to flooding where little will grow and its bi-products can feed livestock.