Since its launch in 2007 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, CIP has doubled farmers’ harvests.
Funded by the government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) at more than Frw10 billion, the ongoing program aims at increasing agricultural productivity in high-potential food crops by ensuring food security and self-sufficiency.
Robert Sendege, the Director General in MINAGRI says that CIP’s main activities are land consolidation, improved seed and fertilizers use, change in farmer’s behaviour among others.
Emmanuel Ngomiraronka, CIP coordinator in Gatsibo district in the eastern province took us to Rugarama sector to a marshland that has been prepared by MINAGRI through the Rwanda Rural Sector Project that was funded by the World Bank at a cost of US$ 36.00 million.
He said that the marshland was transformed into 450 hectares of rice plantation. “This rice plantation is being managed by farmers from Rwimbogo and Rugarama sector members of cooperative COPRORIZ.
The latter is very important because it helps smallholder’s farmers to practice modern farming, sell their harvest and improve their livelihoods” noted Ngomiraronka.
He went on saying that the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources MINAGRI provides technical assistance for instance by availing one agriculture technician on each 200 hectares and helping to pay the cooperative’s manager to make sure that financial as well as human resources are well managed.
He noted that CIP has contributed to poverty alleviation because now farmers produce in excess and can have something to sell and eat at home.
He noted that farmers are now able to send their children to schools, pay medical insurance and cater for other needs.
All farmers in the marshland are under one cooperative and each farmer might have one plot or two and they merge their lands together to plant one crop on a big surface.
Rukeratabaro Theoneste a farmer of maize in Rwimbogo sector who belongs to Amahoro cooperative said that MINAGRI provides them with seeds and fertilizers.
“Farmers get fertilizers through vouchers for any farmer who has more than one hectare of farm. “We buy fertilizers at 50% subsidy and we get seeds for free” said Rukeratabaro.
Farmers in Gatsibo district told us that they have positively responded to CIP but face challenges to buy fertilizers though at subsidy when the harvest of previous season is not good due to climate change.
In Rwimbogo sector there are farmers who had fertilizers last season but could not use it because of a long period of drought. During this season seed is in store but farmers cannot have access to it because you only get access to free seed when you buy fertilizers.
Mukamwiza Anastasia, a women leader in Rwimbogo sector said that farmers have prepared their farms for plantation but they still need to have access to seeds because they already have fertilizers they did not use last season.
“We don’t understand why they deny us free seeds when we have fertilizers that was left from last season because we could not use them as a result of bad weather”, said the mother of 10.
Ngomiraronka explained that the government advises farmers to approach microfinance institutions such as SACCOs to have access to loans to buy fertilizers.
The women leader told us that it takes time to convince farmers to approach microfinance because they fear for their lands to be taken by microfinance in case the weather is not good for them to have a good harvest.
Anastasia said that farmers still need to complete to pay loans they took from SACCOs to join medical insurance and are reluctant to add on their debts.
MINAGRI has outsourced the sale of fertilizers and distribution of seeds to private companies commonly referred to agro-dealers. Steven Tumwebaze, an agro dealer in Gatsibo district said that they sell two types of fertilizers: Urea and Dap.
“We sell fertilizers and distribute seeds through vouchers that are called “Nkunganire” in Kinyarwanda . Vouchers are for farmers who have 1.5 hectares of farm. If you have less than that the farmer has to sign a contract with an agro dealer in his community.
Rwanda Agricultural Board is looking for the exit strategies for this program to be sustainable. The CIP coordinator in Gatsibo district said that they still have 50 % subsidies on fertilizers.
“Farmers must at the end come at a point where they can buy 100% fertilizers and access seeds at their own means. If seeds are free now we need to look in 3 to 4 years if we can be able to reach a point where farmers can use their own seeds”.
“Are we capable to let all the smallholders’ farmers’ access fertilizers without having 50% subsidies? In case we move from 50% to 20 % subsidies are they going to pay for the rest?”
“We need to continue to build up a system where farmers can access loans in case they don’t have cash. As far as they are cultivating, planting and haven’t yet reached the harvest time or face climate change they need to have access to a loan for seeds and fertilizers. This is the role of microfinance institutions such as SACCOs,” said Ngomiraronka.
Apart from climate change challenges and reluctance to use fertilizers in the beginning of CIP, harvests as well as cultivated surface has steadily increased. Celestin Simpenze the agronomist of Burera distrIct in the Northern Province told us that the district has five main crops: maize, potatoes, wheat, beans and pea on a surface of 35,000 hectares of consolidated lands.
“We train farmers to plant one crop on a big surface by using fertilizers and improved seed and production has doubled ever since” said the agronomist.
Harvest per hectare has increased from 2 tons on each hectare before CIP to between 3.5 to 5 tons per hectare after four years of Crop Intensification Program. The agronomist reiterated that the district is now targeting 9 tons of produce per hectare in the near future.
Mudacogora Faustin in charge of agriculture in Ceru sector in Burera district commended CIP. “It is now easy to control farms when there is an outbreak of diseases that attack crops because we have only one crop on a big land instead of mixed crops before CIP”.
In addition to that it has become easier to find market to farmer’s produce as they harvest together and we immediately link them to market so that they can sell their produce in a big quantity and at a good price.