Essential crops in Rwanda are experiencing low harvests, a situation researchers say poses a serious food insecurity.
The scenario is linked to farmers’ lack of access to improved seeds.
A research conducted across five districts in the country indicates there is a 41% gap in maize production, yet it’s a major staple food crop in Rwanda.
Rwanda produces 480,000 metric tons of maize annually and for every hectare, there are 3.8 tons of maize produced.
The country imports 10,000 tons of hybrid maize from neighboring countries of Uganda and Kenya. One kilo of hybrid maize seed costs Rwf 2000 (over US$2).
The government, has through the Agriculture Board (RAB), been supplying improved seeds to local farmers until the two previous seasons.
Farmers were getting a 75% (Rwf1500) subsidy, but the government has suddnely stopped.
Innocent Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture says, “The government will not always fund everything. Farmers should start professional farming.”
“There is no way we can improve our farming if the government keeps involved,” Musabyimana cautioned adding, “the government will keep pulling out, until farmers will be fully responsible”.
However, farmers say that they cannot afford such costs alone.
“Hybrid seeds are quite expensive, compared to the harvest,” says Charles Cyubahiro, a farmer from Ngoma district, in Eastern Province, a major maize farming area.
A part from maize, other food commodities are produced below capacity. Rice is produced at 63%, wheat at 57%.
The biggest gap however is in banana, which stands at 62%. Farmers cited a disease that attacked the banana crop for the past two seasons.
Meanwhile, officials in the ministry of agriculture said they are discussing with the private sector on plans to produce improved seeds locally to cut down the cost.
One kilogram of maize costs Rwf160, but the production per hectare would increase.