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Waiting for the rain

©IFAD/Christopher Neglia

Kirehe, 27 April - In Rwanda, small farmers are being hit by a number of climate shocks including floods, droughts, intense rainfall and high winds.

This photo essay by Christopher Neglia goes behind the scenes where two IFAD-supported projects are helping farmers in the country adapt to climate shocks by connecting them to different stages of key agricultural value chain production. 

Olive Bibutsuwahoze is a smallholder farmer in Rwanda who , like most others in her village, grows maize and beans. She says that last year the rains came later than expected, and she did not have a good crop. As a result of climate change, rainfall is becoming more unpredictable, making it more difficult for farmers in Rwanda to decide when to plant and when to harvest.

Rwanda is in the midst of a major shift towards intensive agriculture in order to feed its growing population. In 2007, the Government of Rwanda started the Crop Intensification Programme (CIP), which focuses on increasing production of six food crops: maize, wheat, rice, Irish potato, beans and cassava. 

The programme succeeded in increasing overall production without expanding the total area under cultivation. The total production of maize, wheat and cassava tripled from 2007 to 2011, the production of beans doubled, and that of rice and Irish potato increased by 30 per cent.

As crop yields increased, however, researchers found there was still a large amount of agricultural yields being wasted. In fact, post-harvest losses amounted to about 30 per cent of harvested products in the country, and these losses are likely to increase given the country’s reliance on rain fed agriculture and its vulnerability to climate change.

To address this bottleneck, IFAD’s Climate Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP) is investing in hubs, which are places where farmer cooperatives or private businesses can consolidate crops for drying, cleaning, processing, bagging, storage and distribution.

Support for hubs helps farmers to develop the processes needed to add value, assure product quality and quantity, and facilitate market linkages. 

Odette Mukankiko and her daughter Sophia sorting maize. Odette is a farmer and the vice-president of the COACMU maize cooperative. With IFAD's support, the cooperative was able to finish building a climate-resilient drying facility, which allows them to supply maize to large buyers in the national market. 

The project is also investing in helping farmers increase milk production. Milk production in Rwanda increased from 50,000 tons in 2000 to 450,000 tons in 2012 due to the government’s One Cow Per Poor Family policy. IFAD is helping to address the gap in the effective management of milk collection and transport services to avoid wastage. This is especially important because in Kirehe, droughts are expected to become more frequent with climate change.   

Alfred Nsengimana is a smallholder farmer in Kirehe district. He has less than 0.5 hectares and one dairy cow that produces about 13 litres of milk per day. The project has financed a milk collection centre where Nsengimana sells his milk daily, close to the point of production. This reduces the amount of milk spoiled. 

Ezechiel Munyabihogo is a farmer and member of the Rusumo livestock cooperative. He is responsible for logging the daily milk production quantities in the register. 

Through the Kirehe Community-Based Watershed Management Project (KWAMP), IFAD is investing in irrigation and water harvesting to achieve agricultural intensification.  Farmers in this valley cultivate rice in irrigated fields. Their marketed production has increased in the last five years.  

Pacifique Musabyimana stands in front of her home in Kirehe district. The hills around Pacifique’s homestead are highly deforested, due to local demand for fuel wood. Family members used to spend hours each day foraging for wood. Now, Pacifique uses a FlexiBiogas system and solar panel provided by IFAD for her family’s cooking and lighting needs, thereby reducing the need for fuel wood. The PASP project is scaling up an additional 200 biogas units in the area.

Ruyange and Kanyange, Pacifique’s two younger brothers, study by solar light at their home in rural Kirehe district. Thanks to the FlexiBiogas system and solar panel, they can study at any hour of the night.