Rwanda introducing new seed varieties in push to end imports

The Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) says it has distributed 4 out of the 16 mango seed varieties that have been under research and evaluation for possible adoption since 2012.

In submissions made to the Senatorial Committee on Social Affairs, RAB Director General Dr. Mark Bagabe said the mango tests are among several ongoing research projects aimed at increasing agricultural productivity to achieve self-sufficiency in food production by the end of 2019.

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Bagabe said in the past few years, 4 of the most successful mango seed varieties have been mass produced and distributed to farmers, while 17 citrus seed varieties from China are being evaluated for possible local adoption.

Several RAB extension centres are also participating in a project that seeks to establish the best agronomic practices that can help watermelon farmers boost crop production and quality. Other RAB research and development projects include the local testing of 10 wheat and 4 soya bean varieties.

A total cessation of soya bean and wheat seed imports is due to come into force early next year. Bagabe says they are implementing the 2017-2020 Seed System Strategy, which is aimed at improving local seed research capacity in order to put an end to hybrid imports. However, the government will not ban the import of any locally available seed varieties.

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Bagabe said the government will introduce measures to retain and motivate staff to provide incentives for the 103 scientists and research support staff employed by the organisation.

He said it was disheartening to note that, despite their specialisation and huge role played by the organisation in Rwanda’s agricultural revolution, RAB scientists were being treated like ordinary civil servants.

Uganda-based African agricultural policy analyst Jean-Marie Byakweli said research and development have been key factors in the growth of Rwanda’s agricultural sector between 2007 and 2017.

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“Rwanda’s success story is captured in agricultural and animal productivity gains, as well as the expansion in staple crops and livestock. Gains (made) through yield increases and expanded production were made possible by the crop intensification programme, land use consolidation, intensive irrigation and the reclamation and cultivation of previously eroded land,” he said.

Further, he said Rwanda helped build farmer resilience through risk management programmes, including the setting up of post-harvest handling and storage infrastructure, the implementation of an integrated livestock management policy, and the export of value-added agricultural commodities.

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The post-harvest infrastructure includes drying pans and grain aggregation centres, warehouses, rice silos, grain milling plants, as well as tomato and cassava processing factories.

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