By The Inspirer staff
The Caravan, a mobile soil-testing laboratory project expected to improve soil fertility management and increase farm productivity has been launched.
The Government of Rwanda and Morocco’s OCP group, one of the leading exporters of phosphate fertilizers in the world, inaugurated this project dubbed Caravan, on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at Mulindi Agrishow ground in Gasabo District, Kigali.
The Caravan, a set of mobile equipment with modern soil testing technologies, is a bilateral project between the Government of Rwanda and the Kingdom of Morocco with the objectives of analysing soil samples in order to produce a soil fertility map; soil sampling, and soil analyses by the mobile laboratory and the fixed laboratory at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).
The new facility will also support efforts invested in sensitising smallholder farmers on best agricultural practices based on a rational use of fertilisers adapted to soil and crop needs, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI).
This project begins with an initial phase of producing a soil fertility map for a pilot zone of 50,000 ha in Nyabihu, Burera, Rubavu and Musanze, and will later be extended to the entire country later.
Jean Damascene Ntawushobora, an Irish potato farmer from Nyabihu District said that farmers have been faced with applying fertilisers without precision because of lacking knowledge on soil needs and suitable fertiliser to particular type of soil.
“Fertilisers used in marshland was the same used on upland. We were applying fertilisers without certainty; we did not know the nutrient needs for our soil and right fertilisers to meet such needs, which was unfavorably affecting farm productivity,” he said expressing that the new initiative could make them properly use fertilisers given soil nutrient needs.
He revealed that farmers in Nyabihu District wanted that a study to determine soil type and fertiliser needs back in 2009, but it was realized that carrying it out was costly.
Currently, he said, Irish potato production per hectare in the district ranges from 18 tonnes to 25 tonnes depending on variety of land.
The project is jointly implemented by RAB with technical support from OCP foundation. It shall support the development of balanced fertilizer blends in Rwanda and will be used to strengthen agricultural extension around soil-testing and balanced fertilisers.
It will be equipped with fixed and mobile soil testing laboratory, two pickups vehicles with motorcycle carriers, and six motorcycles for soil sampling, and various laboratory equipment.
The initial phase – which will last for about three years – is worth $1 million (abour Rwf880 million), the cost which includes the equipment to be used and improving skills of the personnel who will implement the project, according to Sirikare Sylvere, in-charge of research in soil and water management at RAB.
The initiation of the project was officiated by Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Gerardine Mukeshimana, who was accompanied by the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to Rwanda, HE Youssef IMANI.
Speaking at the launch of the Caravan, Minister Mukeshimana, thanked the Kingdom of Morocco for the excellent partnership in the area of agriculture development in Rwanda.
“This Caravan project is a product and a testimony of the fraternal relationship between the Republic of Rwanda and the Kingdom of Morocco, as evidenced by exchange visits from His Excellency Paul Kagame to Morocco and His Majesty the King Mohammed VI to Rwanda, as well as several exchange visits by officials of Government and the Private Sector from both Countries,” the Minister said.
The project is a precursor to the establishment of a $38 Million fertilizer blending facility which is a joint venture involving OCP Africa, Government of Rwanda and Agro Processing Trust Corporation (APTC), MINAGRI said.
It is in line with the fourth Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation (PSTA4) that plans, among others, for technical assistance for developing site specific fertilizer recommendations, mobile soil-testing equipment technologies, and updating of soil maps.
Under PSTA4 which is implemented from 2018 until 2023/2024, Rwanda targets an average annual agriculture sector growth of 10 percent from the 6 percent registered in 2018 as showed the National Institute of Rwanda’s GDP publication released in February 2019.
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