By Elias Hakizimana.
Rwanda Cooperative agency (RCA) has embarked on farmers’ cooperatives issues especially those who are in maize and Irish potato sector who, in their daily activities face challenges leading to various losses.
Speaking to the media during the presentation of elaboration of advocacy paper in cooperatives of maize and Irish potatoes on December 27, 2018, James Nkubito, Director of Planning and Capacity Building in RCA said that RCA has a fundamental guideline that will lead all activities in better management of cooperatives based on various recent reforms especially by focusing on a member of a cooperative.
“First of all we are looking at a member of cooperative, when we assess, we find that a before the reforms a member of cooperatives was left behind the benefits of cooperative, but today we are focusing on the benefits based on development of a member of a cooperative. It is the reason why there were different reforms in cooperative management that give full rights and opportunity to a member to be among the leaders,” Nkubito said.
He said they will equip cooperatives with skills, trainings and technical assistance as well as boosting the levels of their management to ensure they work in transparency and are in a good position to cater for their members.
Nkubito added that cooperatives especially in maize and irish potato sector were connected and are efficiently working. This was also to prepare for the future sustainability of a cooperative build on members.
“Irish potatoes farmers’ cooperatives were linked and they are working well. Linking them was in line with building their capacity. You could find before five to nine cooperatives in the same sector and it was quite impossible and difficult to build their capacity in such a scattered condition,”
He said that the way forward in to ensure better management of the linked cooperatives.
Among the reforms done so far include Agro Processing Trust Corporation (APTC) that was owned by the reserve force to represent Irish potatoes farmers and its responsibilities were handed to Irish potato farmers themselves.
Some of the challenges after this linkage could be for example, the recovery of loans from farmers after exchanging the leadership but, as Nkubito said, 98 percent of these problems were solved.
Threats in maize crop
Augustin Katabarwa, Chairman of National Cooperatives Confederation of Rwanda (NCCR) said that farmers also get poor post-harvest management especially in maize crop that was damaged by aflatoxin, a toxin produced by certain fungi found on agricultural crops and it leads to huge loss of the yield.
He noted that the government, development partners and banks have a task to jointly finance farmers whose yield was affected.
“These farmers need money to recover the losses by investing in post-harvest management facilities such as storage and drying equipment.” Katabarwa said, adding that there is also need to establish maize yield collection centers and to facilitate farmers to have contracts with traders.
Evariste Tugirinshuti, chairman of maize farmers’ federation said that cooperatives are well managed said that they decided to build collection centers for the harvest to avoid the post-harvest losses.
“We expect to collect 132,174 hectares in this year and will come from Nyagatare, Kirehe, Gatsibo and Ngoma districts that have much yields,”
He said that farmers who use irrigation systems use to harvest 8 tonnes per hectares, and those who use hybrid seeds can harvest between 5 and 7 tonnes, while stallholder farmers can get between 1.5 and 3 tonnes.
Charles Uwamungu, president of Irish potato farmers in Musanze District said the middlemen were involving a huge loss to farmers as they lie to them in order to buy their produce at the lowest price.
Vincent Havugimana, Chairman of irish potato farmers in Rwanda said the reforms in irish potato cooperatives will tackle mainly the problem of trade by avoiding the middlemen.
“It will increase the production and boost members’ capacity and cooperatives will find more strategies to sell agriculture inputs themselves. There will also be advocacy at a higher level where cooperatives will be linked to partners to get supports,” Havugimana noted.
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