By Daniel Sabiiti
The recent prolonged dry spells was hard felt in the Eastern province, compelling government to distribute over 1,200 metric tons of maize and beans amounting to 800 metric tons to 18,308 affected households by July.
For example in Kotebaru cooperative in Rukomo sector in Nyagatare district only harvest 1.5tons of beans in season B 2015 from 84hectares of land compared to 90 tons harvested in a similar season in 2014 on the same piece of land.
Farmers who had been affected by the draught say the early preparations and possible steady rainfall in this season is a sign they will be able to deliver to the local markets.
In the 2016 second quarter, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) indicates that the agriculture sector grew by 3 percent and contributed 0.9 percentage points to the overall GDP growth despite facing a strong hit by effects of climate change.
Prolonged dry spells and dwindling market prices as a result of high costs of transport within the country and shortage of seedlings saw the agriculture sector loss ten billions in the fourth quarter of 2015 in comparison to its steady performance that same year.
“This time we are banking on early preparations for season A, which is maize. And we have purchased a water pump to irrigate at least four hectares as we negotiate for a large irrigation machine with government” Jean Damascene Nkunzwenimana, the chairman of Kotebaru said.
For Kotebaru maize farmers, if the season goes as planned, they target over 300 tons of maize produce, to add to the 5 metric tons targeted by the ministry of agriculture.
Agriculture alone brought in about Rwf512billions in this second quarter levying itself with a difference of Rwf460billion second quarter of the previous year.
The 2016 quarter indicates that food crops alone, which many count on for daily meals have made a significant recovery to Rwf373billions from a slump which accounted for a 5 percent decline from last year.
The State Minister for Agriculture, Tony Nsanganira said that government is now embarking on increased productivity to counteract the climate change shocks.
Nsanganira says that so far, through irrigation, better planning and quality seeds, the agriculture sector is expected to maintain a 5 percent overall growth rate to meet the Second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy plan (EDPRS2) target of 8 percent.
With two years left, Rwanda has to meet the above target and despite climate change being an eminent danger, government is banking on irrigation to maintain its food supply reaching the communities.
“So far 45000 hectares of land are on irrigation and we have a potential of irrigating 580,000 irrigable land with an average at least 2000 hectares per year” Nsanganira said.
Government is currently investing about $3000-$4000 per hectare on irrigation of marshlands and about $20.000 per hectare on hilly areas with the latter being more costly as a result of terrain hazards.
With this, and the involvement of the private sector, the ministry of agriculture says that Rwandans will be able to have food on their tables, even when issues of climate change will not go away soon.
“We need to retain as much water as possible and the private sector should invest in irrigation activities, since the rains will not be sufficient this season” he said.
The fall in farm produces saw an Rwf8billions decline in exported crops which had made a significant Rwf5billion increase between the 2015 fourth quarter and the first 2016 quarter.
The sector also recorded a 33percent share price maintaining the same position as in the previous four preceding quarters since the start of 2015, despite a 1.5 percent drop in pricing pegged on the 2011 pricelist- on which all prices are compared to.
Apparently agriculture made a 0.9 percent contribution to the economy in this quarter compared to a 2.2percent in the previous quarter but also had a big contribution to the GDP deflation indicators (measure of the level of prices of all new, domestically produced, final goods and services in an economy).