Shortage of enough tractors is taking its toll on agriculture mechanisation in the countryside. Officials from the Irrigation and Mechanisation Task Force, under the Ministry of Agriculture, say that the available machines (tractors) are not enough to serve the demand.
Government has bought 87 tractors, among other agricultural equipment, from TYN Tong Yang Moolsan - a South Korean company - since 2011 to boost agricultural mechanisation.
The shortage is compounded by regular mechanical breakdown of the available tractors yet there are no skilled people in villages to repair them.
Agricultural mechanisation is one of the programmes the government is encouraging farmers to embark on, especially given the land consolidation programme that brings them (farmers) together to carry out their activities on large scale.
"Demand is high compared to the tractors available. And some of these tractors have mechanical problems that affect their capacity to operate, especially in the rainy season," Innocent Nzeyimana, the chairperson of the Task Force told The New Times last week.
Out of the 87 tractors, 30 tractors were sold to private individual farmers and cooperatives as one of the measures to enable farmers own, operate and modernise their activities.
This implies that the government now has 57 tractors, of which 26 are down due to mechanical problems.
"We are experiencing the problem of getting spare parts although the agreement we signed with the supplier indicates that they are responsible for that," Nzeyimana said.
But, Nzeyimana explains that since TYN Tong Yang Moolsan has no local representatives in the country, it is hard for the company to fulfil its repair obligations as per the agreement.
In addition to the nature of the land where they (tractors) are operating which is said to be hard, it is also believed that operators of these high technology machines need more skills.
The lack of sufficient mechanisation services for farmers undermines the real intention for government to set up the national mechanisation workshop in Jabana sector, Gasabo distric,t as well as the Village Mechanisation Centre (VMC).
VMC's have been set up at district level and are meant to have tractors among other agriculture equipment, so that they serve farmers on a relatively low cost compared to what is charged by private tractors owners.
These centres are currently operational in Gastibo, Nyagatare, Kirehe, Rwamagana, Ngoma and Bugesera districts. Others are Nyanza, Ruhango, Rulindo, Musanze and Gasabo districts.
The centres are also meant to offer maintenance services as well training farmers on how to operate and maintain tractors and other equipment.