10 December 2012

Rwanda: Farmer Takes to New Farming Techniques

For years, Oziya Sebakare and his wife Tamali Mukankiko, from Rwabicuma sector, Nyanza district, have been growing cassava, sweet potatoes, banana and beans. This year, they decided to concentrate on beans.

According to Sebakare, he got encouraged to grow the single crop, not only because he was advised to do so, but also because he got support to manage his farm on the hills of Rwebicuma by terracing it.

"We are told to go and get new varieties of seeds and fertilizers and they urged us to pay back the same quantity after harvesting," he explains. "They showed us how to use fertilizers and sow seeds in lines."

Sebakare, who was until last week still sowing as well as looking for supports for climbing beans, says he would exploit his entire farm if it rained early in his area.

He is practicing such farming activities for the first time, but he is already thinking big, although he laments that carrying fertilizers up the hilly gardens is a problem.

"Only strong people carry some kilograms on their heads," he says.

Sebakare observes that it would be better if the government constructed some feeder roads through their farms so that vehicles can take the fertilizers closer to him as he is no longer able to carry anything on head.

Erstariko Mbaraga, is another farmer in the same neighborhood who has since this year realized a change in his farming activities.

"We used to sow and harvest without doing any assessment to see if we were making any progress. But now, we will be able to record our progress," he says.

He adds that it's the first time that they are cultivating in terraces, using proper fertilizers and other farming techniques that they share in a group of 16 farmers where they meet once a week.

"When we meet, we share experiences and what we can do to achieve a collective progress; so we learn from each other," points out Mbaraga, who is also the group leader.

Mbaraga, who has now exploited 1.5 ha of his farm by growing beans, says they raise their suggestions and propositions on how to make a further progress and channel them to concerned officials through their group.

The terraces that the farmers are exploiting have been put in place by Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation (LWH) Project which is under the ministry of agriculture, but financed by the World Bank.

Fidel Bayingana, the agronomist of Rwabicuma sector says they have been since last year been growing both new climbing and bush varieties of beans as well as maize on 798 ha on the terraces established in the sector.

The new varieties are developed by Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) in collaboration with other partners such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Joe Devries, the Program for Africa's Seed System (PASS) director at AGRA, recently told The Rwanda Focus that they have, in partnership with RAB and agro-dealers, developed 22 new varieties of beans and 10 of maize in the country in the last six years.

The plan to provide the new improved seeds is in line with the country's policy to move from agriculture of subsistence to commercial one.

The reality in Rwabicuma reflects Rwanda's efforts to invest much in agriculture transformation for national economic growth as the sector employs majority of the population - more than 80 per cent.

Innocent Musabyimana, RAB's deputy director general of agriculture extension, says the will to transform agriculture ranges from establishment of conducive policies, basic infrastructure to technical support so as to bring about a success the whole chain.

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