The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) has hailed the Rwanda Fertilizer Company (RFC) for supporting Rwandan smallholder farmers with a comprehensive package enabling them to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
RFC is a newly created joint venture between the Government of Rwanda and OCP – a Morocco-based fertilizer producer and world leader in the phosphate industry.
As a new company, RFC was set to initiate its operations at the end of 2020, but in the face of the pandemic, it launched a crisis action plan prior to officially opening to help curb COVID-19’s impact on agriculture.
The emergency relief component of RFC’s plan is a donation of 500 metric tons of DAP fertilizers to provide essential supplies to smallholder farmers. The donation will cover over 5.000 hectares of land for season A 2021.
The Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, welcomed the move, noting that it is in line with the government’s ongoing COVID-19 response intended to build the resilience of the country’s farmers, allowing them to increase productivity and continue producing enough to feed the population.
The Minister said: “This is a significant contribution to our work to provide farmers with the essential nutrients needed to boost agricultural productivity, thus ensuring enough food supply.”
In addition to the short-term relief, RFC is implementing agricultural development programmes that will help Rwandan farmers to become more adaptive to crisis situations in the long-term. RFC is developing a partnership with the International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC) to support the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) and RFC staff with regional training on blending soil-specific and crop-specific fertilizers.
“This will ultimately enable the farmers to better understand their soil and create fertilizer solutions that are adapted to their crops and more resilient,” according to Ministry of Agriculture.
This partnership also includes the development of trials for new fertilizer products, particularly for wheat, beans, and soybeans, by setting up demonstration plots for these. This will allow the Rwandan fertilizer market to grow from one which uses standard products to a customized and tailored market.
In total, almost 1.000.000 USD will be invested to set up more than 450 demonstration platforms to build capacity and increase market knowledge. The aim is to introduce farmers and relevant stakeholders to best farming practices for all stages of the harvest, from seed selection to nutrient management, mechanisation, and post-harvest handling.
Finally, RFC’s action plan also targets potato production, one of Rwanda’s most important crops. RFC has partnered with Wageningen University and Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) to explore how Rwandan farmers can improve potato yields and limit post-harvest losses through good agricultural practice. This project will generate data that will improve the quality and volume of the farmers’ produce over time, which will, in turn, increase potato farmers’ selling prices and revenues.
Overall, RFC’s actions during the pandemic contribute to the recent calls from the African Union and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on African states and partners to “safeguard input supply chains for small-scale agricultural producers” in the context of COVID-19.