Market sought for surplus 500,000 tons of maize, beans

While farmers have seen out put go up in the past few years, there is now need to plug gaps in post-harvest handling and market link­ages to enable them reap maxi­mum benefits from their produce.

Small silos like this one should be replaced by bulk storage facilities. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

Small silos like this one should be replaced by bulk storage facilities. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

Emmanuel Birikunzira of Cyumve Sector, Musanze dis­trict is one of the farmers whose production has significantly in­creased since he started planting improved seeds.

“I now harvest over 400kgs of maize where I used to get 70kgs,” he says. He adds that he can now save over Frw 700,000 per year when he gets good market for his produce.

Such increased production is not limited to Musanze district or northern Rwanda.

In Eastern province, for in­stance, there are large-scale maize, rice and banana producers. Big plantations of Irish potatoes can also be seen in some parts of Rut­siro and Karongi districts.

As a result of various govern­ment programs in irrigation, mechanization, land use con­solidation, and use of improved seeds and fertilizers, the country now has a big surplus of maize and beans.

Agnes Kalibata, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resourc­es last week announced a pro­jected surplus of 300,000 tons of maize and 200,000 tons of beans this year.

Production is no longer a prob­lem, but surplus is. Without dry­ing and storage facilities or a guaranteed market, the country’s bounteous yields deteriorate and are unable to command higher prices.

“We are not totally sure of get­ting buyers and the price of maize is still low,” said Birikunzira. Cur­rently, a kilogram of maize is at Frw 225. He recalls with nostalgia when farmers used to sell maize at Frw 350 per kg when the for­mer Rwanda Agriculture Devel­opment Authority, now integrat­ed in Rwanda Agriculture Board, was engaged in maize purchase.

“For us we would be happy if we get facilities to keep our pro­duce safe since we are not sure of get buyers immediately after har­vesting,” Birikunzira said.

Kalibata, says that she under­stands the farmers’ concerns but called upon to private sector to exploit the opportunities avail­able in the agricultural value chain.

“At this stage, involvement of the private sector can be one of the solutions to the development of the whole chain by processing products to add value, construct­ing modern grain bulking cen­ter in order to complement what small-holder farmers are doing,” the minister said.

Ugandans

Yet the minister also considers as crucial the engagement of the local private sector to deal with the market linkage. “Ugandans have been coming and taking our produce to South Sudan and Ke­nya; so why can’t our local busi­ness people do the same?” she added.

There are virtually no modern warehouses owned by private lo­cal people.

In Kirehe district of Eastern Province, the only grain bulking center in the district, Post Harvest and Handling Storage, is owned by Entreprise Nkubili Alfred & Sons (ENAS), an agricultural firm in Rwanda specializing in buying and selling agricultural products.

This center, serves more than 18,000 farmers. It links village ag­gregation centers to large-scale warehouses and regional mar­kets – giving farmers access to a commercial market for maize and beans.

By offering proper storage facil­ities, it enables farmers sell their produce when prices are go up.

The center also provides essen­tial drying and cleaning services to improve the quality of grain, so it can command a higher price.

Minagri projects a surplus of 300,000 tons of maize this year. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

Minagri projects a surplus of 300,000 tons of maize this year. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

Therefore, the government ef­forts to handle the situation, ex­plains Kalibata, include organiz­ing farmers to form cooperatives.

However, majority of coopera­tive societies in Rwanda are still young and face shortages of tech­nical skills and finance. Many only have volunteer boards and few paid staff, hence a great need of extra support.

Kalibata promises ministry support to cooperatives that may be facing some challenges. She says that the ministry has estab­lished a post-harvest taskforce – a unit that works with cooperatives to reduce post-harvest losses, cre­ate additional storage and con­nect farmers to storage facilities.

The taskforce aims to reduce losses from 23% to 15 % especially for maize, rice and beans, accord­ing to information from the min­istry.

“We are committed and well equipped to properly handle the yields. We can’t let our pro­duction get lost while we have enough market,” she said.

The success of this will actu­ally impact on national develop­ment since agriculture drives the Rwandan economy and accounts for 80% of employment, 39% of GDP, and 63% of foreign ex­change earnings.

How a single cow turned round life for a rural family

Yohani Batiste Bakinahe, 51, a resident of Kabag­esera cell, Runda sector in Kamonyi district, has experi­enced a rapid transformation in his life, thanks to a single cow donated under Girinka pro­gram.

Yohani Batiste Bakinahe: from poverty to saving money thanks to a cow. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

Yohani Batiste Bakinahe: from poverty to saving money thanks to a cow. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

The program that was initi­ated to help vulnerable families become self-sufficient in milk has surpassed its objectives to become a major source of in­come for beneficiaries.

For Bakinahe, the single cow he got under the one-cow-per-family programprovides him with enough milk for daily consumption and a surplus of at least 5 liters a day which he sells to get money for other basic needs.

“I am now assured of food and I am able to satisfy my fam­ily’s needs. I am also able to pay school fees for my three chil­dren,” he said.

He says that the benefit from the cow had gone beyond im­proving daily nutrition for the family to become a source of in­come that can be invested in oth­er activities. This is in addition to the manure that adds fertility to his land.

“Before I start using the ma­nure from the cow, my land used to yield very little, even though I sometimes used to apply arti­ficial fertilizers. But I now pro­duce about 100 kg of beans on the land where I used to get only 30 kg,” he added.

The manure he gets from the cow has helped him improve his agriculture mainly focusing on bananas. He says that a bunch of banana from his garden can fetch up to Frw 2500—a big boost to his earnings.

The numerous benefits from a single cow helped Bakinahe to raise income and buy more land at Frw 450,000 so as to expand his farm. He also managed to buy motorcycle at Frw 800,000 that his older son uses to trans­port people and generate more income for the family.

With his immediate needs taken care off, Bakinahe is now saving money thanks to the sin­gle cow he got when he was still poor 4 years ago.

“I had no a bank account a few years ago because I had no money. Now that I have many stable sources of income, I start­ed working with some financial institutions to ensure security of my money.”

He adds that he has now saved over Frw 350,000 on his Banque Populaire du Rwanda account while another amount of Frw 55,000 is kept on his Sac­co account.

Maria Uzamukunda, 43, whose husband was killed dur­ing the genocide, is another ben­eficiary of the program in the same sector of Runda. She says the cow has helped her look af­ter her two children.

“I’m a widow and used to have no house, but I managed to get my own house and pro­vide my school-going children with all basic needs. I also used to hardly get mutuelle de santé but I now pay for it myself,” she explains.

This improvement of living conditions thanks to the cow is evidently meeting the objective of alleviating poverty and im­proving nutrition that the gov­ernment intended to achieve when it launched the program in 2006.

Under the program, 118,000 cows have been given out. The target is to give poor people 350,000 cows by the end of the program in 2015, says Clarisse Ingabire, the coordinator.

The program has emerged as one of the home-grown so­lutions taken from traditional culture traits and has been ap­proved by the cabinet as one of the measures for attaining Vi­sion 2020 and the Economic De­velopment and Poverty Reduc­tion Strategy.

Irrigation provides sprinkles of life for agriculture

Irrigation can en­sure optimal utiliza­tion of all cultivat­able land to produce enough food for nationals and surplus for interna­tional markets.

Walking on water: Sylvain Ndahayo’s business is booming since he introduced a simple irrigation mechanism. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire )

Walking on water: Sylvain Ndahayo’s business is booming since he introduced a simple irrigation mechanism. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire )

On a small hill of Bun­yogombe cell, Ruhango sector in Ruhango district lives Sylvain Ndahayo, a small-scale vegetables and fruits farmer.

He grows leeks, carrots, parsleys, onion and cab­bages throughout the year using harvested rain wa­ter. With a small machine connected to the pool of water through a pipe, Ndahayo is able to pump water to his garden. This father of two no longer waits for rain to plant his vegetables.

This is small-scale irri­gation that Ndahayo has practiced for a year and a half. He copied the idea from his neighbor that seen a big change in his life.

“Initially, I used fetch water for my crops from down the valley and I would be very exhausted at the end of the day. And for all that effort, I would get almost nothing as the yield was poor,” he said.

The skills that he had learned were supple­mented by material sup­port provided by the for­mer Rwanda Agricultural Development Authority, now under Rwanda Agri­culture Board.

The water pit that he built with the support of RADA has capacity to keep 125 cubic meters – the quantity that can help him irrigate his crops for three months during a dry season.

“Now I can use one hour irrigating my veg­etables and save the re­maining time for other activities.  I used to spend the whole time going to the well,” Ndahayo says.

Not only is Ndahayo now food secure, but also has a source of income.

With in a year and a half, had already paid back his Frw 300,000 loan that he took when setting up his shelter. He also bought a portion of land worth Frw 300,000 while he also plans to buy another one worth Frw 400,000 to ex­pand his activities.

He also has a project to set up biogas system electrification worth Frw 600,000 by the end of this year.

“Everybody now knows that I grow vegetables and they ask me to sup­ply them some quantity,” Ndahayo says. “This en­courages me and pushes me to do more that I can become a model farmer.”

His neighbor, Abel Nsengimana, also practic­es similar irrigation since 2007. He grows tomatoes and bananas.

For Nsengimana, there has been a big change in his life since he started using the small scale ir­rigation. “I was not get­ting any yield here, but now my production is ten times more than what I used to get,” says Nsen­gimana. He can now save around Frw 400,000 at the end of a season.

About 23,000 ha are now under irrigation country-wide. (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

About 23,000 ha are now under irrigation country-wide. (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Ndahayo and Nsengi­mana’s achievements mir­ror government efforts to improve agriculture – the sector that employs more than 80 percent of Rwan­dans, through irrigation.

Irrigation has helped large maize farmers in eastern province. For in­stance, in Mpanga sector of Kirehe district, there is big maize farm on a consolidated land. There, constructions of infra­structure to facilitate ir­rigation on a large scale are ongoing. So far, three giant tanks and have been set up with pines to pump water.

Jean Claude Musaby­imana, a member of task force in charge of irriga­tion and mechanization, says that the project in Mpanga sector aims to manage 600ha. So far, 200 ha have been cov­ered while the whole proj­ect treatment, started in March of last year, will be complete by the end of this year. The project will cost of Frw 6 billion. The project will produce about 1,800 tons per sea­son with 200 families cul­tivating the area.

According to Musaby­imana, the irrigation proj­ect in Mpanga is part of the ministry’s initiative to expand basic infrastruc­ture necessary to irrigate hillsides and marshlands.

About 23,000 ha are now under irrigation country-wide with only­1000ha on hills.

“Our target is to achieve 100,000ha by 2017 from the starting point of 18,000ha we had in 2011,” Musabyimana points out.