After achieving the initial target for food security, the country is now in a position to produce for foreign markets, a top agricultural officer has said.
Norbert Sendege, the Director General of Rwanda Agriculture Development Authority (RADA), told The New Times last week that the ongoing agricultural revolution, which is aimed at making the country food-secure and a major food exporter, had already registered great success.
“Just a few years back we were facing production shortage; we had cases of families lacking food but today we have a challenge of finding markets,” he said.
Sendege said, through the Crop Intensification program (CIP), many farmers were trained on how to use fertilisers and specific crops have been designated to regions with suitable soils, which have drastically increased the harvests in the last few years.
Rwanda is a predominantly an agricultural economy with at least 80 percent of the population living directly off their fields.
The sector contributes almost 40 percent of the national GDP and the government commits around 10 percent of the country’s annual budget to the sector.
Sendege said that the agricultural transformation programmes have resulted in the acquisition of 2,100 calories needed every day for every Rwandan.
“We place much emphasis on priority crops such as maize, rice, wheat,
beans, cassava, Irish potatoes and bananas,” he said, adding that all these crops are now primarily grown in areas with soils that are appropriate for them.
The government also subsidized fertilizers, namely Diamonium phosphate-DAP, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potash-NPK, UREA, with farmers paying only 50% of the total cost, the official said.
He said that the production of some crops has tripled as a result of CIP, giving the example of maize which increased from 100,000 metric tonnes in 2007 to about 340,000 metric tonnes, two years later.
“We have encouraged the growing of tubers in some areas because they play a major role in food security; we have cassava cuttings that are resistant to pests and yield more production. We have distributed them to different farmers especially in districts that have had severe food insecurity like Nyaruguru, Burera, Gakenke districts,” explained Sendege.
He added: “We have surpassed the target of food security and are now targeting exportation of agricultural products.”
Sendege, however, said that Rwanda have not yet attained the required storage capacity, saying that available granaries only have the combined capacity of not more than 1500 tonnes, the country needs granaries that can store at least 90,000 tonnes, to be on a safer side.
But, he added, the government has earmarked funds to build new granaries which will add the storage capacity to 20,000 tonnes.
In a telephone interview with The New Times, the Mayor of Burera District, Samuel Sembagari, said that CIP has had a major impact in the northern district.
He said production has since doubled in all the priority crops in the districts.
The Mayor said: “Before, we used to harvest between seven to eight tonnes of Irish potatoes on one hectare, but now we harvest between 17-20 tonnes per hectare. In addition, we used to harvest one tonne of wheat per hectare, but the production has now raised to four tonnes.”
He also said that maize production per hectare rose from between 1.5 or 2 tonnes to at least 3.5 tonnes, and that the harvest of beans on the same size of land rose from one tonne to three tonnes.
Asked to link the improved harvests to the livelihoods of the population in Burera District, Sembagari pointed out that many residents had been able to build decent homes for themselves, saying that the district had had 4,900 grass-thatched houses before CIP, but now the number has reduced to 300 grass-thatched houses.
He also said that electricity rollout rose from 3 percent three years ago to the current 5 percent.
“This programme (CIP) has tremendously improved the livelihood of our families; farmers have fully adopted modern farming systems and are happy with the increased harvests. They now use both industrial fertilizers and compost manure, especially in the form of cow dug as a result of cows that many farmers received through the Girinka (One-Cow-Per-Poor-Family) programme,” explained the mayor.
He added: “We are now at the stage of processing our agricultural produce so as to add value to our products.”
Sembagari added that his district has acquired 49 granaries which will store and conserve fruits, maize, Irish potatoes and wheat.