Jean Paul Sebarera had given up on growing cassava after brown streak disease, known locally as kabore, devastated plantations in his area. Mr. Sebarera farms in Kinazi sector, about 30 kilometers south of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
He says: “Some of us no longer eat cassava because of the disease that affected the crop. We now rely on beans and maize, so news that we shall soon be able to access a new cassava variety is more than welcome.”
The welcome news is that Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture will distribute a new high-yielding and disease-resistant variety of cassava to farmers in Ruhango District, which includes Kinazi.
Fulgence Nsengiyumva is Rwanda’s State Minister for Agriculture. He announced the plan at the end of September.
He is urging district officials to work closely with seed multipliers to ensure that as many farmers as possible have access to the new seeds. He says his ministry will provide the seeds to poor farmers for free.
The state minister adds, “The other [distribution] process is to provide the varieties to farmers on credit, which they pay back after selling their harvest.”
Cost is a major barrier for many farmers who want to try new cassava varieties.
Jean Claude Ntezimana also farms in Kinazi. He explains: “One sack of cassava stems can cost up to 10,000 Rwandan francs [$12 US] and is only enough to plant half an acre. Some choose to plant other crops because of financial constraints, but this region is mostly suitable for cassava.”
Hundreds of local households used to earn their livelihoods by selling their harvest to Kinazi Cassava Processing Plant. But local cassava varieties succumbed to disease in recent years, leaving many of those families without income.
Under the new plan, farmers will plant the new variety on 1,800 hectares in Kinazi sector, where the processing plant is located. The plant’s director, Emile Nsanzabaganwa, says farmers currently supply the plant with 21 tonnes of cassava per day, but the plant has the capacity to handle six times that amount.
The state minister hopes the higher-yielding variety will help feed the processing plant, as well as local families. He says cassava yields vary between 8 and 30 tonnes per hectare, depending on the variety and the farming methods used.
Francois Xavier Mbabazi is the Mayor of Ruhango District. He says that farmers will plant 7,700 hectares with the new cassava variety in his district. Farmers have already planted almost one-fifth of that amount.
More than 700,000 families grow cassava in almost 4,000 villages in Rwanda’s Eastern, Western, and Southern provinces. Altogether, the country is hoping to boost cassava production to more than six million tonnes per year, almost double what it was three years ago.
Minister Nsengiyumva says that, in addition to the new variety, researchers are developing other varieties that they will give to multipliers.
He hopes that farmers will have access to these new varieties within three to four years, just in case the current one also succumbs to disease.
Source: Farm Radio Int. www.farmradio.org