AGRF Partners Group Chair, H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, tours agricultural project in Nyagatare

The Chairperson of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) Partners Group and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, has commended the three firms whose joint venture has already contributed around 25 percent of hybrid maize seeds for the current season that started in September countrywide.

Desalegn, who is also a former Prime Minister of Ethopia, on Sunday visited the project located in Gabiro, Karangazi Sector in Nyagatare District.

Agro Processing Industries (API), entered partnership with One Acre Fund (OAF) and Western Seed Company (WSC) in July 2017 for the production of hybrid maize on 300 ha annually.

API provides the land and labour on the farm in Nyagatare, as well as machinery and warehousing infrastructure.

One Acre Fund invests in the irrigation equipment, seed processing and packaging plant, as well as marketing of the seeds to the farmers.

WSC provides the parent seed, described as “invaluable”, since it contains decades of research and development effort, alongside experience in hybrid seed production.

AGRA, on the other hand, provides the three partners with different support, including consultancy, trainings and technology transfer, among others.

AGRA helps smallholder farmers in Rwanda and elsewhere in 11 African countries they operate, according to Desalegn.

“Seed production is one of the major issues in Africa, and I believe this is a very good process,” he said.

“If we want to increase productivity and have agricultural transformation, we have to focus on our smallholder farmers, the smallholder farmers in Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa need to get new varieties of seeds and agronomic practices that can help to bring boosted production in our continent,” he stated.

Climate change resilience

Because of climate change, he said, things are becoming “more complicated”.

“We have to have varieties that are resilient to climate change, and I think one of the varieties that were shown us today, WH 401, is for the low land, which makes agriculture more resilient to climate change,” he noted.

The project targeted to produce 975 metric tonnes of three varieties of hybrid maize seed for 20A and 20B planting season, with the target being to produce 5,000 metric tonnes of seed by 2023, and become the first seed producer in the region.

The long-term vision is to make Rwanda a leading seed producer in Africa, and a globally competitive.

Through government ‘Nkunganire’ programme that supports all farmers, a kilo of the maize seed is bought at a subsidised cost of Rwf526, while without subsidy, it would cost up to Rwf2,390, and officials at the project say their next step is trying to lower the cost.

Jean Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the country has already started benefiting from the partnership of the three companies.

During the current season, he said, almost all maize seeds planted in the low and medium altitudes were produced in Rwanda, and the seeds for high lands are expected to be available by the next season too (2020B, that will start in February).

Besides the Gabiro project, Musabyimana said there are other small-scale seed production projects where local production of the seeds currently stands above 70 percent of the needed quantity.

“Since 2003, we started working on agriculture transformation in Rwanda and to achieve it requires a lot, we started by identifying the appropriate crop for each area, depending on the type of the soil,” he reflected.

Musabyimana said the efforts made to modernise and professionalising Rwandan agriculture, specifically turning it into a business-oriented profession.

“We were importing not less than 3,000 tommes of maize seed and the private sector was eventually brought on board given the business potential that was there and here we are,” Musabyimana said.

Being the board chair of the farmer-centred institution, Desalegn said AGRA has been “working very hard as a catalyst to bring about those stakeholders together, so that they will have an impact on smallholder farmers”.

Founded in 2006 and based Nairobi, Kenya, AGRA is transforming smallholder farming into thriving businesses across Africa, with its Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA) partners, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID.