RWANDA – International Seed Federation (ISF) has partnered with Fair Planet, an Israeli non-profit organization to launch a Seed Resilience project in Rwanda in a bid to boost farmers’ productivity and income through access to high-quality seeds. 

 The move is aimed at local farmers by providing them with high-quality seeds and training in modern farming techniques, which will help to increase crop yields and improve food and nutrition security in the country.

“Rwanda is characterized by a wide range of agro-climatic conditions with diverse cultural and farming practices. Agriculture is an important basis for the country’s socioeconomic structure and has a major influence on all the other economic sectors.

“The farming system at small-scale farmers’ level is mostly traditional and managed with simple production technologies and the average yield of the major crops is very low,” says Shoshan Haran, Founder and President of Fair Planet.

According to Haran, the regulations and openness of the Rwandan government make Rwanda an ideal place for their project.

“The Rwandan government is eager to apply innovations and up to now, access to high-quality seeds has not been addressed by the government or by international aid organizations.

“During a recent meeting with Gerardine Mukeshimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture, she expressed the importance of collaboration on the seed system and extension services, to help smallholder farmers to be successful in their farming activities,” he says.

The country also presents great export opportunities, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where only a portion of the land is arable and cultivated.

“Rwanda has a very high potential to become a significant exporter of crops to DRC, one of the world’s largest countries with more than 95 million people,” Mukeshimana says, adding that for the Seed Resilience project, they’re looking to empower farmers and give them the best possible future after the intervention is completed.

The next phase of the project will involve finding the right varieties for the growers, an endeavour that Haran deems as tasking but important to guarantee success.

“We will focus first on identifying market needs and preferences for specific crops. Let’s take a tomato for example: does the market prefer oval or round tomatoes? What is the preferred fruit size?” Haran says.

Haran also adds that they are working to determine what crops Rwandan farmers should grow to supplement other locally produced staples like grains and cereals.

Only 6% of Rwanda’s annual food production is comprised of cereals, and the country is a net importer of grains and grain seeds.

For rice, wheat, and potatoes, the yield differences are 37%, 43%, and 50%, respectively, when compared to the global average and even less when compared to mature markets. Production discrepancies per hectare are large.

Following the pilot stage, Fair Planet then moves on to the training phase, where they teach lead farmers how to use the seeds through weekly field trips with their regional Extension officials. This is when GAP education comes into play.

After farmers are successful in transforming farming into a sustainable and reliable source of income and a critical mass of knowledgeable and skilled local professionals is reached and assumes full responsibility for continuing the training process, Fair Planet finally leaves the area, as it has already done in its first intervention region in Ethiopia.

“This is also a key point for ISF. We are not looking for short-term solutions which keep farmers in a dependent state. 

“We really wish farmers and all the agro-business to be able to make a living out of their work. Our aim is to help build a sustainable system,” Khan Niazi, International Agriculture Manager, ISF says.

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