Three important reasons why Rwandans should increase their seriousness in growing cereals: the ever increasing demand, therefore pushing their prices always higher and higher, and their (the cereals’) ability to grow in relatively drier conditions.
Starting with the ability of cereals like millet and sorghum to thrive in hardy conditions, the world already stands warned against adverse seasons due to climate and other changes. Even without this fear added onto our shoulders, our country has a rough terrain that is unfriendly to most crops, but that can be harnessed to grow cereals.
There is a habit of people growing only traditional crops, thereby minimising their chances of earning money through non-traditional crops. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) just confirmed the need for more supplies of cereals. Refugee-creating situations as are happening in Kenya, Somalia, Chad, and the Sudan, cannot but send grain-need soaring. Uganda is reaping huge benefits from the World Food Programme’s extending unlimited quota on the amount of maize that farmers can sell to it.
Rwanda needs to explore possibilities of expanding wheat growing in the cold areas of Ruhengeri that can support the crop, and step up efforts of growing more rice and maize, not only for home consumption, but also getting cash out of it. Projects like introducing upland rice will not only lessen the pressure on our few marshlands that are mercilessly laid bare and therefore contributing to environmental abuse, they will also increase production, thereby putting more money in the pockets of farmers.
Millet is a traditional crop here, but it is grown in very small amounts; yet millet can be grown on almost every parchy piece of land. It should become a matter of policy that agricultural officers in rural areas encourage people to produce more millet, instead of their continuous moaning about lack of arable land.
It makes grain-sense to prepare for adverse conditions that our weather forecasters are foretelling. Everyone should remember that the climate changes will not be manifested overnight. Let us start preparing for the dry day in good time, as forewarned is fore-armed.