By Elias Hakizimana
Over 700,000 smallholder farmers could soon smile all their way thanks to seeing their livelihoods improved by interventions from the newly launched $32 million (approximately Rwf27 billion) agriculture promotion project funded by USAID – the United States Agency for International Development.
By 2022, the project will have benefited over 700,000 smallholder farmers in ten target districts: Gatsibo, Kayonza, Bugesera, Ngoma (Eastern Province); Nyabihu, Rutsiro, Ngororero, Nyamasheke, and Karongi (Western Province); and Nyamagabe (Southern Province), according to the managers of the project.
To achieve the agriculture and livestock production targets, the initiative will offer interventions including helping farmers combat crop diseases and drought that have been resulting in reduction of farm produce.
The five-year project that was launched on Thursday, April 26, 2018 in Bugesera District, Gashora Sector has been operating in Rwanda over six months ago and equipped farmers with needed skills in good farming practices and ways to cope with drought and crop diseases and pests.
It aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of women and children, and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate.
To tackle interrelated issues of undernutrition, food insecurity and barriers to agricultural productivity, the initiative implements holistic interventions that by focusing on the sustainable intensification of Rwandan smallholder farming systems, with an emphasis on climate-smart, nutrition-sensitive approaches.
Hinga Weze, project designers say, is utilizing innovative approaches to enhance the production of five value chains: high-iron beans, orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP), Irish potato, maize, and horticulture.
Seraphine Nyirantezukwizagira, a mother from Shyara Sector of Bugesera District, one of the beneficiaries of the project since January 2018 testified that she benefited more skills with ‘Hinga Weze’ project which enabled her to increase sweet potato yield.
“We were trained on how to increase agriculture production from soil preparation, seeds variety selection and now we are farmers’ role models. We acquired skills on how to cultivate sweet potatoes such that for my farm one potato weights two kilograms. The project linked us with bankers to get loans for equipment that are helpful for good agriculture production,” she said.
She also noted that they got to know how to prepare good nutrients for families and children at all ages.
“We were also trained on water recycling and you all know that our district is prone to drought and now we are ready to keep water to use in such a period. So, Hinga weze projct comes as a solution in our district,” she added.
Daniel Gies, Chief of Party of Hinga Weze said that it is going to help farmers to grow more so they can sell more, get money and eat better.
“That is easy, it is really pleasure to launch it in this country, we work closely with agriculture ministry, health ministry, the state secretary, Rwanda agriculture board (RAB) and we need to increase agriculture production in this country for 200,000 farmers.
We need to improve nutrition for 200,000 women and children and we have to improve markets and get more money for another 200,000 farmers,” Gies observed.
Hinga weze has contract with USAID and the US Embassy to help farmers adapt to climate change and have enough water for crops thought solar powered irrigation and terrace.
“A major part of our project is supporting irrigation and terrace, and of course MINAGRI, RAB, Rwandan people, so we are really doing terrace and irrigation. All these combined need some money and expertise so that they can have an addition of 4000 hectares of terraces, and 500 to 600 hectares of irrigation by the end of five years. And we want to do this in renewable way through the water management, irrigation and terrace,” Gies added.
The new US Ambassador to Rwanda Peter H. Vrooman said the project will benefit all people from the youth, grains and food, beans, maize and fruits for nutritious diet for Rwandan people. It will help farmers with better inputs and task management to deal with Fall Armyworms (FAW).
Since 2011, Vrooman said, USAID contributed $107 million in agriculture sector in Rwanda.
Fulgence Nsengiyumva, State Minister for ministry of agriculture and animal resources (MINAGRI) said the project will help the country increase crop production especially for identified crops by the project (Irish potatoes, maize, beans, soya beans and fruits.
The project will be implemented on consolidated land and farmers will manage use of feltilizers, address crop diseases, and ensure quality of produce from farm to market.
“We as a ministry can work all possible manner and work with other partners to avail enough food for Rwandans, with enough nutritious diet to uproot malnutrition and stunting among children,” he said.
He recommended the project to engage youth in agriculture activities.
Regis Umugiraneza, Head of Agro Processing Cluster in Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness (RYAF) said they will focus on increasing capacity for youth in agro processing and boost young farmers’ capacity to increase agriculture production.
“There has been a gap of skills in what we do, we wish to have more youth in agribusiness in the next five to ten years. The project will help us to further our skills so that we practice professional agriculture that benefits us and increase our country’s economy,” Umugiraneza said.