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Over the years, the Chinese government has supported a number of sectors in the Rwandan economy notably the agricultural sector which employs an estimated 90 per cent of the Rwandan population.
East African Business Week talked to the Minister of State in Charge of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Tony Nsanganira, on how through the training of farmers and mechanisation of the sector, the Chinese have enabled Rwandan farmers to significantly increase their yields.

Improved agriculture methods contribute in the national development
Improved agriculture methods contribute in the national development

How has the Chinese government supported the growth of agriculture sector in Rwanda?

The Chinese Government has contributed to the growth of the agriculture sector in Rwanda through by awarding Rwandan students scholarships every year for short courses and post graduate studies in order for them to get training on irrigation and mechanisation technologies.

Today, over 100 Rwandese professionals are trained on technology based agriculture, especially on rice and mushroom. The support has culminated in the Rwanda Agriculture Technology Demonstration Centre (RATDC), which is a Chinese supported Institution based in Huye district in the Southern province.
The centre has been training Rwandan farmers in mushroom and rice production, soil conservation and sericulture. The Republic of China has also been sending expert engineers to work and transfer technology and skills to Rwandans.

Looking at irrigation farming in Rwanda how has China, through the China Geo-Engineering Corporation (CGC) supported irrigation farming in Rwanda?
CGC was contracted by the Government of Rwanda to construct the first ever large scale sprinkler irrigation system in Rwanda. Through its experienced engineers working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, CGC participated in the design, procurement and installation of a powerful large scale sprinkler irrigation system responsive to the needs of the Nasho farming Community.
Using their international experience, CGC have also been able to construct the Rurambi Marshland Irrigation Scheme in Bugesera District. The Rurambi Scheme consists of a pumping station on the Upper Akagera River, drainage of an adjacent 1,000 hectare marshland, installing canals for irrigation. Rurambi is now being used to produce rice, maize and vegetables.
As a resident company with international links, CGC have assisted us in accessing quality equipment and materials for the construction of irrigation and water systems.

Was China Geo-Engineering Corporation (CGC) support towards the construction of Kirehe sprinkler irrigation system and livestock watering system feasible and sustainable?
The construction of the Kirehe Sprinkler and Livestock watering system has provided a practical and sustainable solution to modernising agriculture thus contributing to the government’s objective of achieving commercially viable agriculture and providing a better livelihood to rural communities.

How has the Kirehe sprinkler irrigation system contributed to sustainable agriculture methods among farmers in Kirehe?
Kirehe District specifically the Nasho Valley is characterised by frequent droughts which have worsened due to climate change and weather variations. Before the introduction of irrigation in the area, the rural populations were unable to sustain their farming livelihood due to the low yields in grown staple crops like maize and beans.
With the introduction of sprinkler irrigation in Nasho valley in 2012, farmers are now able to produce enough food to meet their daily needs and extra to sale. From the previous low yields of maize and beans at 0.5 and 0.1 tons per hectare respectively) farmers are now getting as much as 4.5 and 2 tons per hectare respectively.

The introduction of irrigation has also helped in consolidating land-use by farmers which has greatly supported the government policy of Crop Intensification Program (CIP) that aims to leverage higher yields through better support and close proximity of inputs supply as well as better access to markets for the rural community.

The move has resulted in an increase in rural income for the farmers in Nasho.
Introduction of irrigation has also allowed the rural community to access agriculture mechanization thus reducing the drudgery of manual land preparation.

How has the irrigation scheme helped Rwandan farmers to reduce dependency on rain-fed farming?
With the use of water from Nasho Lake for irrigation, the farmers in Nasho valley can now produce crops all year round including in season C, in which most farmers grow cash crops like tomatoes and onions leading to a better livelihood and improved nutrition.

Therefore, with the introduction of irrigation systems farmers no longer need to rely on rain-fed farming and are now able to start their planting on time and even extend the growing period of their crops. Farmers are now able to carry out other agriculture practices such as fertiliser application in time without having to wait for the rains.

The East Africa Business Week