By Elias Hakizimana.
Member countries of African Agribusiness Academy (AAA) who practice horticulture farming have been challenged by lack of enough produce and limit themselves on their local markets.
Moving forward to seeking new opportunities for export, they are mostly looking at how they can increase fruits and vegetables production and improve on storage conditions to be able to export regionally and internationally.
The move is in line with the AAA objective of promoting Horticulture Export opportunities for Regional and International markets.
Six AAA member states including Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Ethiopia were gathered in Kigali last week on Thursday May 17, 2018 for a horticulture desk workshop to discuss opportunities that they can use to expand their exports.
Farid Karama, Executive Director of African Agribusiness Academy Secretariat said that they are looking how they can tap into different opportunities to export horticulture products (Fruits and Vegetables) on regional markets since they found that they have not been putting a lot of emphasis to sell the yield to other markets apart from selling locally.
“We need to go out of our countries and explore the opportunities, that is why we are here to promote regional and international exports. We want to see Uganda exporting to Rwanda, Rwanda exporting to Uganda, so, we need to come up with mechanisms that can really give us a way we can move the market,” Karama said.
Karama also said that the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) in Kigali has come on the right time and that they need to work hard to benefit from that.
He noted that the current challenges facing the sector are coming from farmers and entrepreneurs themselves who do not explore and expose themselves on markets.
“The best way I think we could do is to explore and get exposed. Farmers from Uganda can come to Rwanda to learn what they are doing and others do the same respectively and in that way we are going to get exposure to external markets, gain the knowledge and come to implement in our countries, that is how we can reduce the challenges we have at a hundred percent,” he said.
Currently, the African Agribusiness Academi is working with over 500 agribusiness companies that partner with small holder famers.
The recent research by AAA revealed that their members are over 1,5million farmers. Karama said that farmers need to look at what the markets need and what investments they need to put in so that they calculate income.
He advised entrepreneurs not to rush, but to understand very well the market’s requirements before they proceed by investments.
Kazimoto Ntabanganyimana Cansilde, Chairperson of Rwanda Horticulture Inter-Professional Organization (RHIO) said that they are reaching the good position of increasing the production with government’s support through Nkunganire fund programme which is very helpful enough for farmers to get fertilizers and irrigation equipment.
She pointed out seasonal problems that caused effects on the production, citing that 10 percent of tomatoes and pimento used to be damaged. “The government is doing whatever possible to avoid such losses by helping farmers plant on time and to prepare the crop basing on available contracts with clients,” said Kazimoto.
Kazimoto said that farmers will need to learn how to dry fruits and vegetables to useduring the dry season, which also contributes to reducing damages.
She said that some farmers started using the system and that the National Agriculture Export Board (NAEB) has a project in which University students help farmers of vegetables and fruits in efficient storage conditions to reduce losses.
Jean Claude Ruzibiza, Representative of African Agribusiness Academy in Rwanda and in-charge of AAA-Economic Development at regional level said that despite the weak progress in terms of exports, fruits and vegetables exports got an increase from 2.7% in 2010 to 7.9% in 2017.
He noted that they expect a huge increase of export in coming years due to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in agriculture of nowadays.
Ruzibiza is among Rwandans who use ICT with computerized green houses where computers manage everything without the need of someone to go in the farm for irrigation or fertilization.
Pierre Damien Mbatezimana, Managing Director of Shekinah Enterprise that processes cassava leaves or Sombe and they also use drying technologies to prepare the final production for export.
“We export to Belgium, Canana, USA in Boston and Atlanta and in United Kingdom, the role of drying fruits and vegetables in Rwanda is that our country is far from the sea. The dried cassava leaves (Sombe) is also easy for cooking between 5 and 30 minutes,” said Mbatezimana.
According to Angelique Mukunde, Kicukiro Vice-mayor in charge of Finance and Economic Development, they target to explore the valleys for horticulture to increase the production in partnership with Kigali City Authority.
“We have two valleys that are well prepared for horticulture, these are Umushumba mwiza valley of 14 hectares which will host vegetables, another one is Rugende valley in Masaka sector of Kicukiro district whose 170 hectares are used for maize intensification and its part of 7 hectares is for vegetables and fruits. We have other valleys we want to explore like Ayabaraya valley (over 75 ha) between Masaka and Kanombe sector,” said Mukunde.