In the fertile landscapes of Nyagatare and Kayonza districts, Eastern Province farmers are raising their voices, calling out to investors for support in acquiring essential agricultural machinery. Their plea is not just a request; it’s a quest to supercharge the productivity of farming in the region. The timing is crucial, following the Ministry of Agriculture’s groundbreaking decision to allocate 70 percent of the district’s farmlands for crop farming, a bold move to enhance agricultural output and mitigate the risks of food scarcity in the country. Let’s delve into the farmers’ aspirations and challenges, and the innovative solutions that can transform Eastern Province’s agricultural landscape.
Embracing a New Horizon
The farmers warmly welcomed the Ministry of Agriculture’s decision, recognizing the immense potential it holds for their communities and the nation. However, they expressed a pressing concern – limited resources to seize this newfound opportunity. Their primary challenge lies in the reliance on manual labor for land preparation, a process that not only consumes time but can also disrupt the meticulous planning required for successful farming.
A Vision for Prosperity
Take, for example, Aaron Mugemangango, a dedicated ranch owner in Kayonza District’s Murundi sector. With a vast expanse of 20 hectares, Aaron aspires to cultivate maize on a grand scale. However, without access to tractors and modern agri-machinery, this vision might remain a distant dream. He aptly points out that the absence of such equipment could lead to weeks or even months of labor-intensive work, a costly delay for an industry where timing is paramount.
Aaron has ambitious plans for the maize harvest. He intends to invest the proceeds in advanced livestock management practices and infrastructure, maximizing the crop residues as quality feed for his livestock. The synergy between crop farming and livestock is a pivotal element in the agriculture landscape of Eastern Province.
A Region Brimming with Potential
The Eastern Province boasts more than 10,000 farmlands, with thousands of hectares that are poised for cultivation, thanks to the government’s forward-thinking decision. The benefits are manifold, including a reduction in the risk of food scarcity and the creation of employment opportunities to bolster local economies. However, this promising start is not without its challenges.
The Tractor Shortage Conundrum
Ruzindana Rusagara, a farmer residing in Karangazi sector in Nyagatare District, aptly captures the essence of the issue. “It is challenging to dig vast tracts of land using manual labor; we need tractors. The available tractors are already booked, and the demand has surpassed the available resources.” This conundrum is not insurmountable, as officials from the Rwanda Agriculture Board explain.
Solutions on the Horizon
In 2018, the Rwanda Agriculture Board accredited private companies to distribute services, including agricultural mechanization equipment. The government also took the remarkable step of exempting value-added tax (VAT) on agricultural equipment, including tractors. Farmers can access agricultural mechanization equipment through subsidies provided by RAB and partner projects like the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Food Security Project (SAIP) and Rwanda Dairy Development Project (RDDP). Currently, 39 companies offer access to agricultural mechanization equipment.
Rwanda’s Mechanization Journey
Rwanda’s mechanization program, initiated in the fiscal year 2009/2010, has been a resounding success. The program encourages rural farmers to embrace farm machinery, with the strategic goal of increasing agricultural mechanization from 27 percent to 50 percent by 2024. Eastern Province, under the able guidance of CG (Rtd) Emmanuel K Gasana, the Eastern Province Governor, has already procured more than 61 tractors and facilitated crucial connections between farmers and investors to pave the way for transformative cultivation activities.
A Bountiful Future
As Eastern Province gears up for the next season, 2023-2024, it is expected that there will be a remarkable increase in the arable land that will be cultivated. The crops that will dominate these newly added hectares include maize, soybeans, and beans, a testament to the region’s dedication to enhancing food productivity.
The farmers of Eastern Province in Nyagatare and Kayonza districts stand on the cusp of a transformative era. Their call for agri-machinery investment is a plea for a more prosperous future, not just for themselves but for the entire nation. The Ministry of Agriculture’s visionary decision has set the stage for an agricultural renaissance, and the region’s farmers are ready to embrace it. With innovative solutions, collaboration between government and private enterprises, and the dedication of the farming community, Eastern Province is poised to unlock its agricultural potential and secure a bountiful tomorrow.
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