The market oriented agriculture approaches, which have been adopted by smallholder farmers, are expected to boost incomes of horticulture and rice co-operatives.
This was the assertion during a seminar of Smallholder Market-oriented Agriculture Project (SMAP), which closed shop after operating in Rwanda since 2014.
The project was initiated to increase yields and incomes of smallholder farmers as a joint initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources in collaboration with JICA Rwanda.
Goto Michio, SMAP's Project Manager, hailed Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) for the last five years.
"I extend my deepest thanks to RAB and district officers,"
Officials pose for a group photo after the handover. Photos by Sam Ngendahimana.
Farmers too, he said, were very kind, warm, hardworking and flexible which facilitated the smooth implementation of the project.
As SMAP phases out, he said, we hope that the project will be implemented by RAB and local communities to achieve the projects goal.
The project will officially end October 2019.
"We have achieved the project objectives successfully," Michio said. "Farmers have at least increased their profit more than two times under the SMAP project."
JICA Vice President, Tomonoro Nagase, also believes that the project has achieved it objectives particularly changing the mindset of farmers.
"Farmers should abandon or shift from the mind-set of 'Grow and Sell to Grow to Sell'. This we believe will teach them to be market sensitive, thus increasing their incomes"
He also highlighted that by concluding its operations in Rwanda, SMAP should not change the course of action for smallholder farmers because RAB will be maintain the similar approach but also monitoring all those who have benefited from the initiative.
Nagase urged the farmers to scale up and sustain the momentum in adopting market oriented practices.
"A project can't stay forever. In this regard from now on ward farmers and all the stakeholders should aim to sustain this success and scale it up even to more smallholder farmers."
According to Jean Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, this project has succeeded in increasing production reached to approximately 25,000 farmers across the country.
He also thanked the Japanese government for their continued interventions .
"I want to thank the Japanese government in a special way JICA for their continued support not just in the agricultural sector but in all the different sectors that they contribute to. I believe both states have learnt a lot from each other and am optimistic that the trend may go even higher"
While officially closing the project, the Japanese Ambassador to Rwanda Takayuki Miyashita, said that Japan has always looked forward to working with Rwanda and the closing of the SPAM project will not change that.
"I first thank the Rwandan government for making it possible to the end of this project, and I believe that we are looking forward to venture into other different sectors because Rwanda for us has been a special host."
According to Marcelline Uzamukunda, the president of the Twiteze Imbere Isangano Cooperative, they were nominated by SPAM back in 2016,
She recalls her co-operative being one of the most unprofitable in Musanze by then. However, she says; "When the team (SPAM) approached us, there are basically three things that they taught us, the first being management of our co-operative (we actually had no leader by then), the second being understanding the market and finally spending more time to deliver quality and quantity needed by our market demand."
Today, Uzamukunda said, every year, each member in the co-operative receives a saving of Rwf78,000 net and the profits raise that amount to at least Rwf110,000 for all members.
She also recalls that the co-operative was initiated with just Rwf250,000 but has now grown threefold.