Rwanda is a hilly country with 90% of the population dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Farm sizes average only about 0.6 ha, often fragmented amongst several parcels; many households manage as little as 0.4 ha. Population pressure compels for cultivation, while most of the hillside areas exceeds recommended slopes for cultivation most especially subjected to severe soil erosion and low productivity.
In order to sustain cultivation and productivity on such steep-slopes, considering even the most costly soil conservation measures such as land husbandry become necessity not a choice.
It is in this regard that, the Government of Rwanda designed the Land Husbandry, Water harvesting and Hillside irrigation (LWH) project to increase productivity and commercialization on the hillside of Rwanda., this program will be significant in transforming Rwandan agriculture. The project uses a modified watershed approach to introduce sustainable land husbandry measures for hillside agriculture on selected sites, as well as develop hillside irrigation for sub-sections of each site. It therefore uses several techniques and technologies in construction and management of land, developing appropriate land husbandry practices for both rain-fed and irrigated agriculture and provides modern agricultural techniques for higher production of annual and perennial crops. The Project activities include extensive community sensitization and participatory approaches to ensure that people participate in their own transformation. Communities are further supported to form self-help groups which lead to cooperative formation. A wide range of capacity building programs are carried out for farmers and other institutions that support agriculture like Districts, financial institutions and the private sector. This program started with funding from the Government and the World Bank in 2009. It now has a basket funding of USD$113.3 million with funds from IDA (USD $34 million), GAFSP (USD $50 million), USAID (USD $14 million), CIDA (USD $8 million), and the Government of Rwanda (USD $7.33 million). With the current financing, the Government envisions to do land husbandry activities on 12,940 Ha and irrigation on 1,868 ha on the hillsides.
The project started piloting different techniques on three ecological zones in the sites of Karongi-12, Karongi-13 in Western Province, Nyanza 23 in Southern Province and Gatsibo-8 Eastern Province. After successful implementation of the program the project scaled up its intervention to 3 mores sites of Rwamagana-34 and 35, and Kayonza-4 in Eastern Province since March 2012. Recently, the Project has carried out its activities in Gicumbi and Rulindo Districts in Northern Province in order to reach the set targets. The project beneficiaries are 22,689 Households with more than 100,000 direct beneficiaries from these different sites.
Strong farmer groups were formed in these sites and have been trained on agricultural technologies, post-harvest, marketing, business planning, compost making, trees nursery maintenance and saving. These groups have now formed cooperatives in piloted sites, linked to financial institutions and are now enjoying financial services for agriculture value chain. More importantly, the newly formed groups in Phase IB sites are tremoundsly working with PFIs to finance their agricultural value chan. Currently, the project is now working with 21financial institutions which have significantly improved savings and inputs financing. To date over 184 million were disbursed for input and investment credit through SACCOs.
Close to 8,000 ha of land has been treated with comprehensive land husbandry technologies across sites, and 6,632,817 trees planted for terraces embankment protection. Yields of different crops have tripled and in some areas like Karongi increased 5 times after the land treatment. Farmer net income from sales has also tripled as farmers now market 69% of their produce from 30% before the project, savings increased by 74%. 14 storage facilities and 13 dryers have been constructed to minimize post-harvest losses of the increased production, while 14 storage facilities 11 dryers are being constructed in the rolled out sites. Farmers move from substance farming to commercial farming. The project uses community participation approach where community members are employed in project areas, with more than 22,000 workers employed in different land husbandry activities. This has contributed to increased rural income within the site and areas surrounding LWH sites. Hillsides irrigation in Nyanza (471 ha) and in Karongi (232 ha) have started in November 2012 and January 2013 respectively; and the construction works are ongoing in these sites.
Land Husbandry technologies
Rwanda is a hilly country with 90% of the population dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, while most of the hillside areas exceed recommended slopes for cultivation and subjected to severe soil erosion which results into low productivity. To curb down the soil loss in the hillsides, the project introduced a modified watershed approach to introduce sustainable land husbandry measures for hillside agriculture on selected sites, as well as develop hillside irrigation for sub-sections of each site. It was found to be necessary to use several land management techniques (soil bunds, terraces, cut-off drains, water ways, afforestation and reforestation) as well as strengthening terraces with risers to develop appropriate land husbandry practices for both rain-fed and irrigated agriculture to provide modern agricultural techniques for higher production of annual and perennial crops. It worth noting that land husbandry practices on hillsides depends on slope categories i.e soil bunds on 6-16% slope, terraces on 16-40%, narrow-bench terraces on 40-60%, more than 60% slope afforestation. Therefore, to sustain cultivation and productivity on such steep-slopes, considering even the most costly soil conservation measures land husbandry become necessity not a choice.
Water harvesting and Hillsides Irrigation
The project was initiated to enhance cultivation in three seasons in the year round. This can be possible in the hillsides through construction of water retaining dams capturing water source from the hillside stream in to fill the dam which will be used for irrigation in the command areas.
Dam to be constructed in LWH sites are in the category of large dams between 9-12 meter height which will help farmers to get water in whole year for irrigation. Irrigation infrastructures are constructed in the command areas to irrigated horticulture crops in the terraced land. On average a water pipe will be irrigating three consecutive terraces down ward. To avoid conflict in water management, water users associations have been created to take up the ownership of water distribution, collecting water fees. Currently, the project is having its first harvest of snow peas in karongi-12 sites from the irrigated command area.
To increase farmer’s ownership on project activities, the project use participatory land-use process to promote high stakeholder involvement to empower them in a comprehensive and sustainable land use management. Extensive farmer mobilization and sensitization on project interventions is the leading activities to ensure both the community and grassroots adopt and implement new development for their livelihood change. For better organization, farmers are further supported to organize themselves into Self Help Groups formed on land proximity aimed at liberating the mindset of the rural households from individualistic, multi-crop, subsistence farming to group-based land-use consolidation systems which lead to cooperative formation. So far, Self Help Groups have been formed and strengthened and matured to form viable cooperatives whereby 5 cooperatives in phase IA sites are operational. In this process, the ultimate goal is to ensure that farmers are involved to participate in their own transformation.
Agriculture extension for improved farming methods
As part of increasing productivity in the hillsides, the project introduced improved farming methods along with new improved land management techniques. It is in this regard that quality compost making was introduced to farmers in order to increase soil fertility, thus increase productivity. The use of improved seeds through farmers own seeds multiplication, use of balance inputs all geared to improve productivity in the hillsides. Compost making has been another source of revenues to farmers and more importantly to the land less people. As a result production in LWH sites on some crops doubled tripled in just a year. This is reflected in the increase of Irish potatoes yield from 3tons /ha to 15tones/Ha in Karongi and beans from 0.6 tons/ha to 3.6 tons/ha in Gatsibo. Beyond, perennial crops, the project introduced horticultural crops such as fruits and vegetables for export. These crops are cropped in the irrigated areas for the whole year round due to irrigation structures.
The project objective is to increase production and commercialization of produce. Thus, for better organization, farmers are supported to organize themselves into groups which further form a cooperative. These structures formed are trained on different topic including collective marketing, book-keeping and, entrepreneurship. This is aimed at developing farmers bargaining power through their collective marketing as well as upgrading them to a level of contract farming with potential buyers. It is worth to note that with the introduction of marketing trainings in LWH sites enhanced the marketing portion to rise from 30-76% to date. Where cooperatives have been formed, they now able to do contract farming with big buyers and more importantly their skills in book-keeping has excellent in that they are now able to calculate their costs of production in order to determine the selling price. Moreover, due to expected increase in productivity, the project construct post-harvest infrastructures enabling farmers to collect their harvest but also minimize post-harvest losses.
Rural Finance Services
Access to formal financial services is one of the project mandates in order to spread the culture of saving and credit in LWH intervention areas. One of the tool used to attract this awareness and use of financial services is through extensive mobilization and trainings on financial literacy at the Self-Help Group level through Lead farmers in charge of saving and credit elected by peer members of the Self-Help Group. Additionally, with the spread of SACCOs in the whole Rwanda, they have been trained on agricultural financing, this being the prime activities of farmers from which they will need to transact in order to access financial services. So far the project is working with 36 SACCOs offering financial services to beneficiaries
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