Soya bean farmers cry out as irrigation system fails

Soya bean farmers of Kagitumba marshland located in Eastern Province, Nyagatare District are counting heavy losses after irrigation machines in the area broke down shortly after they started operating.

The farmers are now appealing to the government to exempt them from paying for the seeds until they have sold their produce.

At least 34 irrigation machines have been installed at Kagitumba wetland, which covers about 580 hectares, but most of them are not in use.

Speaking to Rwanda Today, farmers said they have invested a lot of money in soya bean farming expecting high yields after they were encouraged by the Ministry of Agriculture with a promise to be assisted in watering their plants through the irrigation mechanisation programme.

However, they are now in despair after their soya beans plantation dried up.

“Before investing in soya bean farming, we used to grow maize in this wetland,” said Bosco Gasasira, a soya bean farmer from Cyembogo Cell, Matimba Sector. “But we were aised to cultivate soya beans and were promised help in the form of irrigation.

“We were told that our plants would not be affected by drought but we later incurred heavy losses after the irrigation machines were unable to operate effectively.

“I cultivated two hectares, an investment valued at Rwf500,000, including the cost of seed and wages for workers, but when I harvested one hectare I got only one sack weighing 100 kilogrammes, which was valued at Rwf45,000.”

Mr Gasasira’s concern is shared by many other soya bean farmers in the area, who said that their plantation was ruined by drought yet they have irrigation machines, which they now consider useless.

“We haven’t benefitted from these machines since they were brought here in September last year” said Chantal Namibarire. “Even when they try to operate them, the pipes bring out only drops of water on one side of the plantation and other side that is not sprayed dries up.

“Those who could not afford seeds were given, based on the agreement that we will pay after harvesting, but we are now wondering what we will pay for while we harvested nothing in addition to wasted energy.”

Getting seeds late is another major problem affecting soya bean famers as they end up sowing at the wrong time.

“Farming business requires cultivating and sowing at set times, depending on the crop and season,” said Anastase Nzabarinda, who is also a soya bean farmer at the wetland. “In case we get seeds late, we are either affected by the rainy season or the dry one.

“However, we are working for nothing since we are only spending our money and earning nothing in return.

“At the first time we were given soya bean seed but after sowing it didn’t grow due to the soil that had dried up, and that was the result of sowing at the wrong time. Later, we were requested to sow a second time, which is really hard work.”

However, farmers said they have complained about this issue several times but did get any feedback.

“We referred this problem to the representatives of our co-operatives so that they can report it to the bigger officials but nothing has been done,” said Mr Gasasira.

Agriculture ministry of officials however said that they were aware of the issue and working to address it though the farmers remain desperate.

“The root of this problem was based on a power transformer which was not able to generate sufficient power to start those machines but we have requested the Ministry of Infrastructure, through Rwanda Energy Group, to provide another transformer which has a capacity of generating enough power so that that issue can be completely resolved,” said Tony Nsanganira, the State Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.

“We will see how we can help those farmers so that they can be exempted from paying for the seeds,” he added. “We are also ready to make aocacy for those who took loans from banks so that they can be facilitated in the process of paying their loans.”

Late delivery of seeds was cited as among reasons that negatively effect soya bean production in the country, the minister said, adding that the problem is on agro-dealers’ head since are the ones to distribute seeds but he promised to have talks with them so that they can correct all those mistakes work.