Silas Balinda is a farmer and resident of Kanombe Sector in Kicukiro District. He is married with three children, two in secondary school, while the youngest is in primary five.
Balinda says that although he has been hard working, it has always been a challenge for him to raise school fees from his little seasonal harvest.
“Although I have been engaging in certain income generation activities, I do it alongside farming since it has for seven years been my main source of income,” Balinda narrates.
He adds that, “Given the small piece of land on which I have been carrying out farming, it was so hard to make ends meet.”
He explains that in addition to feeding, he automatically had to sell off the largest part of his produce to cater for other basic family needs including paying school fees and medical care.
“I used to plant various crops in my garden including maize, beans and banana plants among others, but my harvest was not all that good as I expected,” Balinda says.
He adds, “At some point, I found myself in a situation of consuming all the remaining harvest and experienced challenges in getting seeds to plant the next season.”
After sometime, Balinda said he joined other 20 farmers who had earlier embarked on land consolidation and crop intensification.
To date, the 42 year old regrets the time he spent working alone, saying it was a total loss. He says life has positively changed due to the big harvest they get as a group.
“As farmers in the area, we put together 35 hectors of land and for the first time of harvest; we had 100 tones of maize. Given such harvest, we were linked to business people who bought our produce at a good price,” Balinda says.
He explains that other farmers have also picked interest and according to him their group will next season have over 50 farmers.
“We shall not only have an increase in the number of farmers, but we also expect to harvest more than we did last year.”
However, he points out that although farmers have been committed, local authorities have played a significant role in promoting land consolidation and crop intensification.
Balinda notes that local leaders have been actively involved in bringing the farmers together and this has created confidence amongst the farmers leading to tem work.
He also said that their leaders have been supportive in linking them to potential and good markets of their products.
Balinda is just one case amongst the many who have so far benefited countrywide.
Donatien Murenzi, the Executive Secretary of Kanombe Sector says that residents have been so much committed in making the policy of land consolidation a success.
“Most farmers have realized why they must take on land consolidation especially after witnessing the way their colleagues are benefiting,” Murenzi said.
He pointed out that although the beginning was not an easy; farmers are now taking the lead in educating others about the need to embrace best agriculture practices.
“When a practice is beneficial, the population will automatically get on board and it is in this line that famers in this Sector have made use of these initiatives,” he said.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Kicukiro District Mayor, Paul Jules Ndamage, said that about 1000 hectares of land was put under land consolidation and crop intensification last year.
In only one Cell, Rusheshe Cell in Masaka Sector, farmers put 70 hectares together to grow maize and this is also what was done even in other Cells, according to Ndamage.
He added that for this year, the district has managed to bring together farmers and that over 1500 hectares of land is under consolidation.
Ndamaje notes that the more famers come together, the more they benefit and accordingly, the district has managed to support them through mechanization that has led to a significant increase in their harvest per hectare.
He explained that through Rwanda Agriculture Board government has also initiated modern farming methods.
“We make sure farmers plant on time, supply them with quality seeds as well as guiding them on the required spacing that has also been affecting many farmers harvest,” he said.