New Chinese tech to boost food production
It is new season and somewhere in Muhoza II sector, Musanze district, Obadiah, a maize farmer, is planting.
“We have been growing crops on this plot for years but yields per harvest seem to diminish every other season because the soils are tired but we have no alternative,” he said.
His story is the same everywhere in the country where about 75% of the population depends on cultivation as a main economic activity.
Yet in Rubona village in Huye district, a facility that can restore hope to cultivators like Obadiah has been launched.
Last week, the US$ 6 million China-Rwanda Agriculture Technology Demonstration Center expected to spearhead modern agriculture technology and demonstration as a way of improving agricultural output was officially opened by Prime Minister Pierre Habumuremyi.
At this centre, a result of the 2006 Forum for China-Africa cooperation (FOCAC) held in Beijing, Chinese experts will teach locals the technique of growing upland rice, bamboo, paddy rice and mushrooms etc. They will also train local farmers on simple modern ways of dealing with soil erosion, a major challenge in this hilly country.
Shu Zhan, China’s envoy said that his own country needs about 700 million tons of food per year yet the land resource is extremely over stretched.
“As countries’ populations continue to grow and increase pressure on the limited land, governments have to come up with new innovations to help produce more food to feed their people and we hope this centre will serve that purpose,” he said.
“Improved methods of farming will make agriculture more productive, giving farmers more income and helping our economy bridge the huge trade balance gap we currently experience,” said premier Habumuremyi.
Indeed, Rwanda’s import receipts have been on a steady rise for the past years, increasing from $325 million in 2003 to US1.3 billion by 2010.
It’s now hoped that if new technology can help farmers get more from the land through use of improved seeds, better soil management and value addition on raw garden crops, it would help garner more export receipts reported to have been just $254 million in 2010.
“So all leaders here, this is very vital. Let us get out of the offices, put on your boots and go out to the fields to help farmers adapt to these new practices. Encourage growing of new crops such as mushrooms which not only provides food but also income,” the prime minister said.
“Improved methods of farming will make agriculture more productive, giving farmers more income and helping our economy bridge the huge trade balance gap we currently experience.”
The Jincao mushroom, one of the crops locals will be trained to grow, for instance yields in just seven days ready to hit the market where a kilogram goes for Frw 1,200.
The mushroom is also long lasting after being dried and processed which means it can be good in times of famine. At the centre, several food processing domestic machines are also made available to the locals at a fee.
“So after harvesting your rice from the field, you can process for both domestic and commercial purposes,’ said a technician at the centre.
Growing up-land rice will particularly benefit many farmers who have been avoiding the idea for lack of skills on especially how to control fast erosion of soils down wards.
On the other hand, paddy rice which normally grows in low lands will benefit from numerous valleys at the hill bottoms where it’s easy to trap water from hill tops.
Prof. Lin Zhanxi, the director of the centre said in the next three years, about 600 technicians and 3,000 farmers will be trained in various aspects of using simple technology to modernize farming and enhance yields.
These trainings and other maintenance costs for the centre will cost another $3 million dollars over the next three years according to LI Yaohong the Economic and Commercial consular at the Chinese embassy.
“After three year, the Centre will be managed and run by locally trained Rwandans,’ said RAB’s head of research, Dr. Daphrose Gahakwa.
Rwanda Agricultural Board reportedly has about a hundred researchers and the Prime Minister says he wants them to be out in the fields and concentrate on passing on skills to farmers
In 2011, the Rwanda Development Board announced it attracted investments in the Agricultural sector worth $78 million and 2087 job prospects. With more investment development research, Rwanda might learn how to milk more from its strained land resource.