By Elias Hakizimana
Farmers from the Eastern Province — Rwanda’s drought prone area — testify that they have significantly benefited from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s irrigation project that was aimed at promoting small scale irrigation in Rwanda.
In partnership with Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), FAO’s three years project (2015-2017) worth $389,000 (Rwf 326,760,000) was implemented in Nyagatare, Kayonza and Kirehe districts, benefiting vulnerable farmers from these drought affected areas.
Beneficiaries of the project were provided various irrigation materials including dam sheets, water channels, pumps among others.
Otto Vianney Muhinda, FAO-Rwanda Program Director said that the project intends to promote small scale irrigation technologies within three years of implementation with the total value of $389,000 about (Rwf 330 million).
$ 200,000 (Rwf 168,000,000) of this budget was allocated to the equipments and another part was used to train farmers as recently some went to Maroc to learn skills about irrigation technologies applied in desert.
“We chose to work with those districts to help farmers get yield by using small scale irrigation systems when there is a shortage of rainfall. Presently, they have a good yield which contribute to the country’s food security,” Muhinda said.
The project benefitted 10 cooperatives bringing together 582 farmers and some of them Nyagatare dwellers who practice agriculture near the small valleys.
Each cooperative was given between $ 15,000 and $20,000(Rwf 12,600,000 to Rwf 16,800,000).
According to Innocent Nzeyimana, RAB Official in charge of Machinery Irrigation programmes, Rwanda irrigates between 2,000 and 3,000 hectares every year on small scale.
Since the inception of small scale irrigation techniques in the country in 2015, there is currently between 4,500 and 4,600 km² irrigated land in the country.
The general irrigated land countrywide is counted to 48,500 hectares.
According to Hanson Micomyiza, RAB Irrigation Specialist, the projects covered three sites of the Eastern Province and some beneficiaries were trained on solar system technology to operate irrigation machines which push water from deep to the ground water pumps.
Rwanda targets to irrigate 10,000 hectares of land on small scale by 2020 since the program incepted in 2015 and there is presently about 4,600 hectares irrigated in this regard.
Nzeyimana said that the projects intended to help best farmers’ cooperatives in Nyagatare, Kanyonza and Kirehe districts to increase agriculture production during drought period.
He said that beneficiaries used irrigation equipments to increase the quantity and quality of produce including vegetables, fruits, beans and maize.
“We are going to share the success of this project to other districts and cooperatives in the country as you know that this is an ongoing government initiative of which FAO is a partner.” Nzeyimana said.
The three years project started in 2015 to support best cooperatives with a significant support in helping them improve on produce. Nzeyimana said that RAB will continue to be closer the beneficiaries in maintenance of irrigation equipments and giving them more trainings.
Beneficiaries give their testimonies
Gatete Gerald Munyeshuri represents Munyeshuri limited company that grows vegetables, fruits and at the same time being RAB’s partner in intensification of maize, beans and Soja in Nyagatare district, Barija sector.
Formed with 11 members, the company employs 8 farmers every day.
He said that they could not grow vegetables before getting irrigation equipments as they did not have enough water.
He says they use the solar system to push water from 64 kilometers deep to the ground water pumps, and that the same water is pure for drinking and home usage.
Munyeshuri said that the new irrigation system helped them to add vegetables as a new plant which needs enough water. He said the quantity of produce also has increased.
“We could not harvest enough before we got the system, per 1 ha, we could get 1,5 tonnes of beans, but with irrigation system, we harvest 3,5tonnes, the same as for maize which made two times increase in quantity, from 2,5 tonnes to 5 tonnes. Thanks to FAO irrigation project which helped us to increase produce,” said Munyeshuri.
The beans produce can save Rwf 1,400,000 as one kilo costs Rwf 400. For maize, Munyeshuri said the produce of 5 tonnes can generate Rwf 2,000,000.
He noted that they could save Rwf 2 million benefit from maize and beans excluding expenses on employees’ payments and other equipments, adding that this amount also has risen to Rwf 4 million; plus Rwf 500,000 benefits from vegetables.
Munyeshuri’s company covers 8 hectares of arable land hosting fruits and vegetables (water melon, carrots and peppers/(poivrots) on 3 hectares, while beans and maize cover 5 hectares.
Devotha Nsabamariya from Nyagatare sector in Mimuri secor, Bibare Cell is another beneficiary whose cooperative ‘Amizero Iwacu’ of which she is the leader has managed to start the season C after the support from the project.
“The support includes RAB and FAO contributions as well as beneficiary’s part. We were supported by Atlantis Bank to get irrigation materials as we were in need of quick irrigation due to the dry spell which was inhibiting our plants,” she said.
“Our financial part was 25 percent as we got the materials on Government’s subsidy. The total budget of our irrigation materials was Rwf20 million from which FAO donated Rwf10 million, plus RAB’s 5 million and our part of Rwf5 million support,” Nsabamariya noted.
Nsabamariya said that they used to get 4,5 tonnes to 5 tonnes of maize per one hectare which increased to 6,5 tonnes during the last season.
“We hope we will increase this produce to 7 tonnes during this season C because we were trained enough on use of irrigation machines,” She said.
Their cooperative is formed by 95 members working on 64 hectares among which 54 are for members and 10 for the cooperative in common.