April 24, 2019

Dairy, cassava, water: how Rwandan farmers nurtured all three

Agriculture does not only involve taking care of natural resources that feed people. Oftentimes, various groups take part in the process to oversee different stages, which is called a ‘supply chain’. When it’s well organised, it helps all the various gifts of nature reach a bigger community. Learn how these brilliant farmers in Rwanda came to benefit entire communities through collaborating – in the right way.

1. Dairy

Burera Dairy processing plant opened in September 2015, but immediately had problems in sourcing milk as there was no organized supply chain,” explained Managing Director Emmanuel Mahoro. “But things improved when everyone involved began to meet”.

In Burera, farmers got used to keeping cattle only for the sale of calves, cows, and manure. Few were involved in the production of milk because there was no market for it. Late payments from milk traders, lack of transport, no access to credit, and no functioning community collection centres further exacerbated the problem. However, thanks to the commitment of the Burera District Agriculture office things have soon changed for the better.

Bringing people together
CDAIS (Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems) is an EU-funded project in collaboration with Agrinatura, FAO and other national institutions. In Rwanda, three areas have been selected to be part of this project, and Burera dairy district is one of them. “The District Office, in partnership with CDAIS, has achieved much by bringing different actors together,” said Jean de Dieu Nizeyimbabazi, Burera District Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The Burera dairy partnership took action and realised that to achieve their aims they had to support each other. The results have exceeded all expectations: milk production has increased so much that new markets were found in Kigali and Musanze. More importantly, higher quality milk products are now available for everyone in the community.

2. Cassava

Cassava crop is among the most productive crops of Rwanda: its cuttings are processed into cassava flour, which is then exported throughout Eastern Africa. At the Kinazi Cassava Plant, farmers and other actors did not previously collaborate or communicate well and due to inadequate supply, Rwanda had to import cassava flour from Tanzania and Uganda. Not capable of accessing disease resistant varieties, farmers saw a decrease in yields and income, impacting their living conditions.

Group effort
As part of CDAIS, diverse value chain actors gathered for a special ‘cassava week’. It was supported at the highest level, opened by Hon. Fulgence Nsengiyumva, State Minister of Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. The relationship between the Kinazi Cassava Plant and the farmers improved considerably thanks to the common understanding reached during the event. Six months after the cassava week, the supply has increased massively, and the coaching sessions provided afterwards further benefited the farmers.

“CDAIS coaching sessions are very different from others I have had. They made me see things differently: to see others as partners and not competitors, and to see the need for change,” said Felicien Simpunga, cassava farmer from the Ruhango district. Yves Nicholas Rutagungira, the supply manager at the Kinazi Cassava Plant, agrees. “The most important thing is that I have learnt how to work together with farmers”.

3. Water

“We had just rehabilitated the Rwangingo marshlands by installing a dam with water distribution channels, but the farmers and livestock keepers kept unfairly competing for the use of water, which caused conflicts. We tried but could not resolve them by ourselves,” says Damien Maniriho, Manager of the local Rural Service Support Programme.

Farmers, livestock keepers and cooperatives used to think about water usage for their own needs, often leading to conflict. Lack of effective collaboration was the main obstacle limiting the adequate exploitation and fair use of the water reservoir. “CDAIS came just at the right time,” explains Damien Maniriho. “Without CDAIS the farmers would still be struggling day and night. We have seen great achievements”.

Partners, not competitors
The trainings provided by CDAIS helped them improve their communication by understanding the needs of one another. Mazime Shema, a maize farmer, singles out the importance of common understanding: “Training on conflict management made us aware of the need to accept the fair sharing of water with other users”. Hamduni Munyanziza, president of Rwangingo rice producers’ cooperative, agrees: “We have learnt to resolve our problems collectively, and we now meet on a regular basis to solve issues as a team”. As is the case with the dairy and casava value chains, collaboration and communication on water consumption turned out to be the ultimate key to success.