By Elias Hakizimana.
Coffee farmers have been facing challenges including low price and crop diseases especially antestia bug that causes potato taste defect in coffee, leading to a drastic loss of yield in both quality and quantity.
But, their concern could soon be addressed thanks to a new project dubbed “Feed the Future Africa Great Lakes Region Coffee Support Program” initiated by the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) and the Michigan State University with the United Sates support.
The project seen the preliminary research with data collection where different stakeholders shared policy results in improving coffee production across the country.
The three-year project was implemented in four districts of Rwanda namely: Gakenke, Huye, Nyamagabe and Rwamagana since 2015.
Before the project comes in place, farmers used to face different challenges that could lead to low yield.
The project is currently in its final year and it aimed at strengthening productivity and quality of specialty coffee in Rwanda and Burundi through research and policy support.
Isaac Nsanzamahoro, from Cooperative Dukunde Kawa in Gakenke District, Ruri Sector in Northern Province highlighted low price of coffee as an issue that impede productivity.
“This year we are selling one kilogram of coffee at Rwf240 which is different from farmers’ wish. Many farmers need it to be over Rwf 280 per a kilogram. So, challenges of farmers are clearly understood as they need paying attention when following on coffee plantation. This requires them having good prices to be able to handle everything,” said Nsanzamahoro.
He said there is a hope for solutions as per the results of the project’s research findings that saw concern of all stakeholders under the whole value chain.
However, it was revealed through the programme that prices vary depending on demand and markets of coffee washing stations.
Call for support in fighting the bugs
“We call the Government to avail pesticides on time and on our side as farmers, we have to use the pesticide properly. Coffee factories have also to control bugs when processing to avoid loss,” Nsanzamahoro noted.
While opening the workshop, IPAR-Rwanda Executive Director, Ms. Eugenia Kayitesi, said that IPAR in its mandate to encourage a culture of debate to carry out research on policy issues is now looking at coffee sector.
“The goal of the programme has been to raise farm level coffee productivity and reduce effects of antestia and potato taste defect both of which are needed to improve small holder farmers’ incomes and help to sustain the African Great Lakes Region’s reputation for producing some of the world’s highest quality of coffee,” Kayitesi said.
She noted that the workshop is expected to further discussions on data collected though this project’s period and share policy results and implications of research findings with coffee stakeholders so that they continue improving coffee quality and productivity in Great Lakes.
Prof Ntirushwa Rukazambuga Daniel Thomas, a lecturer at University of Rwanda’s College of Agriculture and Veterinary Management (CAVM) said to control antesia bug requires much attention in protecting Environment and Biodiversity.
“In our research in Rwanda, we do follow on antestia bug’s life from every 6.am until the evening to better set measures to combat it in spraying. We found that it makes movements from 9 to 12pm and 2 to 3.pm, which is a good time to spray, but also the same time bees are moving and pesticides can kill them, it is the reason why the research has opened doors for many inputs to address the issue,” said Rukazambuga.
Celestin Gatarayiha, the NAEB Coffee Division Manager said that they need to support farmers and increase coffee production and quality for every farmer to be able to have good yield for export.
“We expect expand the research and disseminate good practices in combating antestia bug to other farmers across the country,” he said.
The antestia bug damage coffee. NAEB has annual programme to spray pesticides from September to December to try reduce the pest.
Gatarayiha noted that the antesia bug can damage 30 percent of the production when is not well controlled. He urged farmers to visit the plantation and keep spraying as they find more than two bugs on a tree.
He said the research is looking for new strategies to combat the antesia bug.
Rwanda grows coffee on 36,000 hectares. Last year, the country exported 23,000 tonnes of dry coffee while in 2016, they exported 22,000 tonnes. Gatarayiha said that they target to export 24,500 tonnes in this year 2018.
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