Vegetable farmers who have been struggling to get quality seeds during Covid-19 will now access them thanks to the support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
JICA and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources signed an agreement aimed at providing quality vegetable seeds worth US$950,000 (about Rwf900 million) to Rwandan farmers to ease the impact of Covid-19 on vegetable production.
The support will add impetus to Rwanda's economic recovery efforts following a slowdown in economic activity, which was occasioned by the lockdown aimed at dealing with the spread of Covid-19
Signed on October 6, the deal between the government and JICA will target vegetables that are subject to price volatility and are the most purchased in rural and urban markets.
They include French beans, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cabbages, green peppers, eggplants and amaranths.
The quality seeds of these vegetables will be distributed and cultivated on approximately 2,100 ha across the country in 18 districts identified by the government.
The beneficiary districts are Nyabihu, Rubavu, Rutsiro, Rusizi, Nyamasheke, Bugesera, Gatsibo Kayonza, Nyagatare, Rwamagana, Kamonyi, Muhanga, Huye, Nyanza, Musanze, Gicumbi, Burera and Rulindo.
Providing quality vegetable seeds to smallholder farmers, amid the disruption of supply chains caused by Covid-19 is seen as a tool for easing price volatility in the commodity market both in rural and urban areas.
According to the deal, in order to promote farmers' self-reliance and scale up the benefits of this support, JICA will provide seed for one half of the area farmers intend to grow vegetables and they will commit to purchase seed for the remaining half, resulting in a total of 4,200 ha being cultivated.
Jean-Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the vegetable value chain is one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 because they are perishables.
This makes their storage a challenge for smallholder farmers.
MARUO Shin, Chief Representative of JICA Rwanda Office said the project seeks to increase income of farmers and bolster nutrition for Rwandans.
"We are not simply only providing seeds under this project, but also through this project, we would like to encourage the ordinary farmers to continuously use quality seeds," he said.
Horticulture - including vegetables and fruits - is seen as an avenue for diversifying Rwanda's export earnings, which is largely dominated by traditional cash crops, coffee and tea.
In the fiscal year 2018/2019, Rwanda exported more than 26.7 million kilogrammes of vegetables which generated over $15.6 million (about Rwf14 billion), according to the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB).
This represents a 30 per cent increase in the volume and 26 per cent rise in revenues compared to the previous year.