Rwanda has launched a project that will produce hybrid maize seeds in Karangazi Sector, Nyagatare District in Eastern Province.
The project is a joint venture between Agro Processing Industries (API), One Acre Fund (OAF), and Western Seed Company (WSC), who had signed the partnership on July 19, 2018, in a bid to ensure that Rwandan farmers have access to high-performing seeds.
When the Rwf1.9 billion project goes into full production, it is expected to reduce imports of maize seeds by 40 per cent.
API is a subsidiary of Agro Processing Trust Corporation (APTC), while One-Acre Fund is a social enterprise that aims at increasing income for smallholder farmers.
Western Seed Company is a Kenya-based firm focused on the development and distribution of new technologies in the form of hybrid seed varieties.
"This partnership has never been about us, it is about delivering a great technology to farmers," One Acre Fund Country Director, Eric Pohlman, said.
The three partners have invested in the land and labour, a processing plant, an irrigation system, warehousing infrastructure and a distribution network, among other components.
Last month, more than 200 hectares of improved maize seed were harvested, 210 metric tonnes of cobs are currently drying at the processing plant, and about 400 tonnes of processed and packaged maize are projected for "timely" delivery to farmers across the country for the next season which starts in September.
The partners plan to scale production to over 2,000 tonnes per year, with the goal of being able to produce a variety of high-performing seeds suitable for all the different ecological zones of Rwanda.
The Director General of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Dr Patrick Karangwa, said the role of the private sector in agriculture development was paramount.
"We are at 70 per cent [of local hybrid seed production], next year we want to reach 100 per cent."
The achievement, the official noted, "shows that the progress of self-sufficiency in domestic seed production is impressive."
Karangwa said the price of the seed produced locally will remain lower than imported ones. "The most important impact is that the seeds will be available on time"
"For instance, the seeds that will be used in September are already here, yet we are still in June. The seed is available because it was produced in the country, but if we were importing it, it would not be here yet," he explained.
Karangwa clarified that farmers have been using the seed variety which was imported from Kenya before being produced in Rwanda.
"They are used to it and appreciate it," he noted.
Celestin Ntakazarimara, a resident of Rubagabaga Cell in Karangazi Sector who grows maize on 1.5 hectare, described the facility as a blessing for farmers.
"Sometimes we delayed planting because the seeds had delayed, but now that they are operating from here, there is hope that things will be very well for us.
"The next planting season starts in September, so we have to prepare the fields early, so we have to get the seeds early that month and sow.
"Since this area is prone to droughts, when seeds delayed, it could affect the production," he said.
According to Karangwa, production of improved seeds in the country is dominated by small-scale seed multipliers, and the establishment at Karangazi "means a lot to the economy and, the quality and quantity of the maize crop production."