Annan, Melinda Gates Call for More Action to Improve Agriculture

Special report from the 2012 AGRF, Arusha, Tanzania

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)’s chairman Kofi Annan and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on Wednesday challenged African governments to make more efforts towards agricultural transformation.

“African governments should carry out research and come up with right policies, providing infrastructure for agriculture and supporting their farmers,” Annan said at the beginning of a 3-day African Green Revolution Forum 2012 taking place in Arusha, Tanzania.

Annan therefore urged African governments to invest in the sector not only for food security, but also because it has a huge potential to reduce the unemployment rate.

“Agriculture offers us a real opportunity not only to feed ourselves, but also to create employment opportunities for young people and generate revenue in rural areas,” he pointed out. “If we can do that, people are not going to continue rushing to cities to live in slums the way they are doing.”

Prior the meeting, Annan and Gates had visited rural cassava farmers and a commercial village that is part of the Cassava Village Processing Programme (CVPP), an initiative that is supported by AGRA and implemented by Farm Concern International (FCI) in Eastern Africa, to learn more about the impact that higher yields and increased market opportunities bring to farm families.

“Transformation in agriculture can be achieved and it is taking place,” Annan said, calling upon private sector and financial services to embrace the initiative to boost the sector.

The co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the major sponsors of the African Green Revolution program, urged governments to implement their commitment reflected by 2003 Maputo Declaration to allocate at least 10% of their national budget towards agriculture to support small farmers.

Kofi and Melinda visiting farmers in Arusha(photo AGRF)

Kofi and Melinda visiting farmers in Arusha(photo AGRF)

“Everything we are talking about today is to put farmers at the center,” Melinda Gates said, adding that they need to be connected to a larger market and not put their produce on market when price is low, so that they can get more revenue.

Joe Devries, the Program for Africa’s Seed System (PASS) director at AGRA, told me that the organization has been playing a great role in providing improved seeds in Rwanda since six years ago. He said that so far, in partnership with Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and agro-dealers such as Win-Win, they have developed 22 new varieties of beans and 10 of maize, while potatoes will come next.

The Forum brings together hundreds of stakeholders to assess the agricultural progress made in Africa to date, and the continuing investments in agriculture needed to build self-sufficient and more prosperous societies for the long term.


Kinazi plant on the road to professionalize cassava farming

In April, Kinazi Cassava Plant commenced opera­tions. Financed and owned by Development Bank of Rwan­da (BRD), the Frw 6 billion plant located in Kinazi sector, Ruhango is a success story that has helped local cassava farmers improve yields and in turn in­crease their revenue. The plant was conceived by the govern­ment in order to encourage the growing of cassava in the coun­try.

Workers at Kinazi filling bags with cassava flour. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

Workers at Kinazi filling bags with cassava flour. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

The ultra-modern facility, which has been producing high quality flour since mid April, has not only become a sustain­able market for local farmers, but also made them more cred­ible when seeking bank loans to expand their income-generating activities.

Ephron Harelimana, a lo­cal farmer who has benefit­ted from the plant’s processing wing said that in the past their cassava never found market because it was usually poorly processed. According to Hare­limana, the plant has made life easier because it buys their cas­sava straight from the field, and the money is usually invested in other income-generating activi­ties.

“In the past, we spent a lot of time cultivating the crop, pro­cessing it and then hunting for buyers. We never had a fixed price. So buyers would propose a price, which we would often take – however low – because we had no choice,” he told The Rwanda Focus recently.

Harelimana is not the only one enjoying the advantages of the ‘cassava plant-farmer’ col­laboration, but also many others in Ruhango, Muhanga, Gisaga­ra, Kamonyi, Nyanza and Bug­esera districts – a region famed for cassava production.

According to Justin Ngoga, one of the agronomists working hand in hand with the cassava farmers to help them increase their production, the farmers can now harvest between 20 and 40 tons per hectare – and generate revenue of around Frw 2 million per hectare. The farmers say they use about Frw 600,000 to produce cassava on one hectare, fertilizers inclusive.

To ensure that the plant gets enough raw materials, Robert Runazi, the managing direc­tor of the plant, says that about 12,050 hectares are now ready to grow more cassava.

According to Runazi, pro­jected production of the cassava from the new cultivated hect­ares will necessitate the installa­tion of two more factories.

Kinazi managing director Robert Runazi. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

Kinazi managing director Robert Runazi. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

For the plant management, production of high quality cassava flour is not the limit. Runazi says they have plans to start producing starch from cassava by January. The starch can be used in making medi­cine, clothes, bread and granite among others. Evidently, the production of the starch will fuel the establishment of other factories like textile, bread, con­struction materials, and medi­cine factories.

“This is really an added value to the crop grown by local farm­ers,” he said, adding that this will boost national export since the plant will produce a range of high quality products needed across the world.

So far, the plant is striving to expand its market at both local and international market. Apart from the local market, Runazi confirms that they are already exporting their produce to the UK, France and Belgium.

“We are committed to make cassava farming an attractive industry for businesspeople who want to invest their money with assurance to get back their investment with high profits,” Runazi points out. “This is the only ideal way to value cassava farmers’ work.”


Eggs hatch to deliver woman out of poverty

Clementine Nshimyumukiza: “Self-esteem is a secret to success.” (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

Clementine Nshimyumukiza: “Self-esteem is a secret to success.” (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

If you drove – or walked – for about 30 kilometers from Kigali on the Kigali- Gatuna road, up to a cen­ter called Kwidigiri and asked for Clemintine, chances are that everyone there will correctly di­rect you to a brown-tiled house. Even though incomplete, it is a decent house worth over Frw 15 million.

What is unusual though, is the fact that about 10 years ago, its owner could barely afford to survive, with no shelter and to­tally depended on leasing her neighbor’s farms to earn a liv­ing.

“My life was not easy,” Clem­entine Nshimyumukiza says, re­calling the hard times she went through. “I used to rent a small and poorly equipped house at Frw 2,000 per month.”

The rapid transformation in the life of this mother of two can be attributed to the first 100 chickens she bought in 2008 us­ing savings earned from selling eggs.

“The money I invested in the eggs business was from selling cassava I grew and harvested in someone else’s land,” she told President Paul Kagame during a Citizens Outreach visit to Gi­cumbi district recently.

When Nshimyumukiza culti­vated in others people’s farms, she explains, she was commit­ted to grow cassava, which she sold and got Frw 50,000. Little did she know at the time that this was really her starting point of the fight against poverty.

Then she started selling eggs. The mother of two says she trad­ed the eggs until she decided to rear hens herself in order to en­sure that she gets enough sup­ply. “I sometimes could not get enough eggs because I got more customers,” she explains, add­ing that she had realized that she could also make more profit by raising hens on her own.

“The reason behind it was to manage any opportunity so as to maximize all possible prof­its,” she points out.

A van and a house

Then in 2008 she bought the first 100 chickens and started the battle against poverty – a battle that transformed her from a vulnerable person to one of the most successful ones countrywide.

Since that time, she has in­creased the number of hens from 100 to 600 in 2009 then to 2,000 last year before she increased the poultry farm to the current figure of 7,000 Isa Brown varieties imported from Belgium.

From the 7,000 hens, she says she can expect a daily produc­tion of 6,300 eggs. Each egg is sold at about Frw 67 thus mak­ing an average of daily income of more than Frw 380,000. But it is not only the eggs and hens that can generate income. Af­ter a month and a half, Nshi­myumukiza sells manure taken from the farm for Frw 3 million.

This has helped her buy a mini-bus that facilitates her day-to-day movement and ac­tivities, a piece of land, and another plot on which her Frw 15 million house proudly sits. She is also able to pay her six employees a decent salary ev­ery month. And these are just a fraction of her achievements.

Anyone would wonder whether such production of eggs easily gets a market, but Nshimyumukiza says she has not even come at the point of satisfying the local market. She mentions that her eggs are sup­plied to different parts of the country including Muhanga in the South, Kayonza in the East, Rusizi and Rubavu in the West, not to mention Kigali city.

The business has not only benefitted her but her neigh­bors as well, whom she has taught some business practices.

“Some of us can now earn millions every month thanks to the help and lessons we have got from Nshimyumukiza,” says one of her neighbors

Now that she has already paved the way, her next target is to raise 20,000 hens and then strive for value addition by processing the eggs. This, she is confident, can be achieved in one year and a half.

“Self-esteem is a secret to success,” she observes. “Then, planning for your vision is a prerequisite tool leading to achieving your undertaking.”

MIDMAR supports repatriates with pigs, iron sheets

About 56 repatriated families in Rulindo District have received pigs and iron sheets to help them integrate into society. The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDMAR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) made the donations on Tuesday. Most of the beneficiaries are repatriates from DR Congo and other neighboring countries.

Beneficiaries receiving pigs. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

Beneficiaries receiving pigs. (photo Eric Didier Karinganire)

According to Gaspard Murekezi, an official in charge of reintegration at MIDMAR, the delivered support makes part of the third phase of the project assisting new repatriates and vulnerable families to easily adapt and integrate into society.

“The first and the second phases of the project were held in 2010 and 2011 respectively and this year’s phase was financed by Japan through IOM at a cost of US 1.5 million,” he told The Rwanda Focus.

“When people get repatriated, they are not often well organised. That is why there are such activities meant to help them integrate,” he explained, adding that the whole project has so far supported more than 6,550 families.

Johnson Mukunzi, an official from IOM in Rulindo District said 36 families received one pig per family while 20 families got 22 iron sheets each. He mentioned that they have already donated 100 pigs, 55 goats, 45 sheep and 1,260 iron sheets in five sectors of the district.

Apart from direct support, MIDMAR officials noted that they also facilitate some of the beneficiaries to get vocational training skills and provide them with some basic equipment so that they can easily start their own businesses.

Mukunzi added that the project operates in seven districts countrywide such as Ngoma, Rwamagana and Bugesera districts in the Eastern Province and Burera, Musanze, Gicumbi and Rulindo districts of the Northern Province.

One of the beneficiaries, Venasia Mukandoli, 61, a resident of Bugaragara cell, Shyorongi sector, received 22 iron sheets, which she says, she will use to roof her own house. She has been living in a house granted by Sector Authority after her own house had been destroyed by devastating rain.

“I am very grateful for the officials who have been striving for us to get a decent life,” she expressed. “It’s really a turning point of life.”

Emmanuel Rwirahira, is another beneficiary who expressed his pleasure for getting a pig. He said this is a great source of income that will make his family self-reliant.

“I hope that it will offer me everything that I need,” he expressed. “I am assured that with it, I will easily get health insurance fee and school fees for my children.”