Lack of supplies hampers modern farming uptake in Rwanda

Sunday January 21 2018

Farmers say they do not have the means and

Farmers say they do not have the means and capacity to utilise modern farming technology, which they are trained on. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

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Farmers have cited limited supply of equipment and resources as resulting in slow adoption of modern farming practices.

They say that despite farmers being trained on high-yield farming methods like plant spacing, proper application of manure and artificial fertilisers, crop husbandry and post-harvest handling among other practices, there is little done to provide them with tools.

Farmers’ representatives say the lack of equipment and tools means farmers are unable to adopt modern farming practices.

“It is currently too expensive and difficult for most smallholder farmers to get the modern farming equipment used in the farmer-to-farmer training and Farmer Field School,” said Jean de Dieu Niyibizi, the president of Twihangire Imirimo, a maize and beans farming co-operative in Gakenke district.

The farmers say that despite acquiring skills, most of them do not have the means and capacity to acquire the necessary technology to accompany the skills, forcing them to use low-productive traditional farming practices.

“Space and line seedling using cables increases production, but we find it difficult to apply the technique because it doubles the labour cost and takes a long time. We need equipment to help us,” said Mr Niyibizi.

Farming programmes

The government introduced modern farming programmes in a bid to increase agricultural production. It is pushing use of new technologies to help farmers increase the pace and size of land cultivated. However, farmers have to bear the cost of buying the equipment.

Smallholder farmers also say they find it challenging to buy pesticides or agricultural inputs to deal with climate change to boost harvests. Others say they are not trained on how to use the pesticides and herbicides.

Following the outbreak of the armyworm pest last year, the government gave equipment like watering pumps, protective gear and pesticides to families classified in the first and second Ubudehe social categories. However a shortage prevails.

“We are urging farmers to utilise locally available tools and agricultural inputs,” said Mark Cyubahiro Bagabe, the director-general of Rwanda Agriculture Board.

The move to modernise agriculture into a largely knowledge-intensive, market-oriented, and private sector-led industry as part of Vision 2020, the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, and the Strategic Plan for Transformation of Rwandan Agriculture.