By The Inspirer staff writer
Gabiro Agribusiness Hub Project that seeks to increase farm productivity in a sustainable manner and promote processing as well as exports of farm produce has gained momentum after Rwanda signed a $66.5 million (about Rwf60 billion) deal with Netafim, an Israeli irrigation technology firm.
The joint venture agreement was signed on Monday, March 4, 2019 between the Government of Rwanda, represented by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Netafim, a press release from RDB states.
The GAHP aims to create a holistic and commercial agricultural ecosystem by developing modern value chain over an area of approximately 15,600 hectares of arable land with advanced water infrastructure, cutting-edge irrigation systems, high-value agro-processing operations and other agricultural technology activities across the value chain.
During the first phase, approximately $66.5 million will be invested in the project over a period of 18 months to develop 5,600 hectares.
The GAHP will support the production of crops for local consumption (staple crops), export and agricultural value-added products such as pastes, powders, oils and beverages intended mostly for export. It will also support local livestock especially in the community irrigation aspect of the project.
Speaking after the signing the agreement, the RDB Chief Executive Officer, Clare Akamanzi said that Netafim has successfully implemented the various components of the business model of like that of the GAHP in other parts of the world.
She expressed confidence that its execution in Rwanda will provide a means to small farmers to use innovative and efficient drip irrigation and fertigation technologies in crop production in addition to averting water scarcity, increasing productivity, incomes and household food security.
Drip irrigation, sometimes called trickle irrigation, involves dripping water onto the soil at very low rates (2-20 litres per hour) from a system of small diameter plastic pipes fitted with outlets called emitters or drippers, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
With this method, water is applied close to plants so that only part of the soil in which the roots grow is wetted, unlike surface and sprinkler irrigation, which involves wetting the whole soil profile. It is considered efficient as it uses about 80 percent less water than other types of irrigation such as surface irrigation.
Fertigation, on the other hand, is a crop management practice that allows a timely supply of water through drip irrigation coupled with an accurate rate of fertilizer application, thereby simultaneously improving crop nutrient uptake and water use efficiency (WUE).
“This project will significantly enhance private sector investments in Rwanda’s agricultural sector, mitigate the risks of climate change and food security, contribute to job creation, increase export of value-added products and enhance rural community development and livelihood.
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