By Jeanne d’Arc Munezero
Philbert Ndibwimana a smallholder farmer from Kabarondo Sector, Kayonza district in the Eastern province has seen his harvest double since joining to KIIWP project.
He explains that they used to farm in traditional ways, they did not know how to farm profitably before joining the project in 2007, but after being trained by the project he notes that his harvest has improved.
KIIWP Project standing for Kayonza Irrigation and Integrated Watershed Management Project has trained and equipped householders with modern agricultural skills in order to improve production as well as to commercialize their farming system.
The project’s overall development goal is to contribute to poverty reduction by Improving food security and incomes of 50,000 rural households on a sustainable basis and building their climate resilience in the drought-prone Eastern Province of Rwanda.
In Eastern Province, Kayonza district, smallholder farmers face a persistent issue of severe drought, which brings an additional burden to the systemic challenges of land scarcity, loss of soil, and soil erosion which leads to low harvest.
The prolonged drought in the area, worsened by climate change, has resulted in human suffering which affects access to food and safe water for many families.
Like other smallholder farmers, Ndibwimana who grows sweet potatoes, rice, and beans did not always have the modern skills or opportunities to commercialize his produce.
After undergoing training on the pilot fields, he says that they’ve learned how to first prepare the land before planting potatoes, how to apply fertilizers and pesticides, and how to deal with weeds as well as irrigate the crops.
“We have to follow instructions from the trainers, the knowledge we have gained has become useful because we are getting better yields.” He explains.
For example, he notes that mixing crops has enhanced productivity as it allows him to use their land effectively while at the same time sharing his skills with other farmers.
“The proceeds from selling our products are used to buy us clothes and to pay the school fees for our children without delay.” He adds.
With KIIWP support, Ndibwimana and others have been trained in modern agricultural farming practices to boost production, reduce poverty by minimizing post-harvest losses, and market produce to earn income.
The project works in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and is funded by the International Fund for the Development of Agriculture and Livestock IFAD.
Transversely in Kayonza district, the project is currently targeting to train nearly 50,000 rural household farmers representing 225,000 persons who belong to the poorest Ubudehe categories 1, 2, and 3 to improve their production and connect to markets.
The first phase of the project had a budget of 24 million dollars. the second one started for 6 years with a budget of 61 million dollars, the entire project is expected to cost 85 million dollars.
Julienne Nyirabikari the president of Abazirana cooperative in Kabarondo confirms that the way
“We’re trained to cultivate in modern ways, we’ve receive seedlings thus our harvest in each season has increased.” She notes.
The project also helps farmers by supplying them with necessary agriculture inputs.
Jean Claude Sibomana who is in charge of agriculture and farmer education in the field at kIIWP Project says that they supply farmers with drought resistant seeds that have been tested.
“Before we supply them[farmers] with these seedlings, we also take into consideration the weather, we ensure they grow quickly.” He points out.
Madeleine Usabyimbabazi acting director of KIIWP says that households are fighting famine that is caused by the drought on the land and climate change. The land was not fertile and farmers where not harvesting anything to support their families.
“In order to fight drought, farmers learnt how to make terraces on the mountains. They also used compost manure in order to increase fertility. The terraces helped to conserve soil water and to reduce soil erosion hence improving productivity from the land” “Usabyimbabazi notes.
According to the project, Soil conservation has prevented soil erosion on 1,300 hectares, and in the second phase, 1,950 hectares have been conserved.
In addition, over 440,000 fruit trees have been planted.
The Mayor of Kayonza Nyemanzi Jean Bosco also confirms that it was an area often affected by drought but since the start of various projects, a lot has changed because now the households are farming land despite the effects of climate change.
” Kiiwp project has benefited farmers in Kabarondo and Ndego sectors in terms of changing livelihoods, fighting poverty, and malnutrition. Today, the land has different fruits planted on hundreds of hectares.” He explains.
In addition, the mayor noted that an irrigation machine was also installed to raise water and to help farmers irrigate their crops during the drought season hence production has increased” He explains.
He continued to say that there was a time when the people did not grow food and the government was supporting them, but due to this project and the measures that have been put in place, life has changed.