Close to 6,000 farmers will benefit from the new coffee plantations handed over to residents in the four districts of Kirehe, Rulindo, Gakenke and Nyamagabe, according to National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB).
NAEB recently handed over the plantations, which were developed by the Reserve Force using funds from IFAD and government through the Project of Rural Income through Export (PRICE).
The coffee farms are located in 216 sites and will benefit a total of 5,942 farmers, according to Pie Ntwari, the NAEB communications and public relations chief.
The coffee plantations, with over 3.7 million trees, are sitting on a total of 1,515.5 hectares and were planted by Reserve Force in 2015. That’s 612.8 hectares of coffee plantations in Kirehe, 405.8 hectares in Rulindo, while 294.7 hectares are in Kakenke and 202.2 others in Nyamagabe district.
The Reserve Force has also been maintaining them for the past two years, NAEB said.
The export body is confident that the plantations will help spur the country’s coffee production and export revenues.
Rwanda earned $58.5 million (Rwf49.7 billion) from coffee exports last financial year. The country realised $15.86 million in export revenues for the period January to June 2017, NAEB figures show.
Beneficiaries speak out
Jean Baptiste Hategekimana, from Kigarama sector in Kirehe District, expects to start “harvesting money” from his new coffee plantation in the next one year.
He explained that his one-hectare piece of land was rocky and would have been too costly for him to prepare and plant it with coffee had NAEB and the reservists not intervened.
“I didn’t have money to hire workers, so the intervention of the Reserve Force was timely. I want to thank them for doing what I had thought was impossible. It’s (coffee farm) a gift I’ll never forget,” he added.
Anastase Ngenzi, Kirehe sector, Kirehe District, is happy that the land he had considered ‘barren’ for a long time “has at last become productive”. He added that he will be assure of a steady source of income since coffee is a perennially crop. The Reserve Force personnel planted 3,000 coffee trees for him.
Rulindo’s Elucienne Ndayambaje said: “I could see other people earning money from coffee growing every season, but lacked money to engage in the activity. I thank the Reserve Force for their commitment to make me ‘rich’ this way.”
Though Deogene Harerimpfura, from Rule sector, Gakenke, had seven hectares of land, he had no idea how to make it productive.
“Some residents advised me to grow coffee, but I couldn’t raise money to hire workers to prepare the land or buy seedlings and fertilisers.”
NAEB has been emphasising value addition and is encouraging farmers and co-operatives to take advantage of coffee washing stations to enhance quality in the sector and competitiveness of Rwanda’s coffee exports. It is also implementing a five-year plan to increase coffee productivity and exports.
In July, the agro-export body entered into a partnership deal with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to try and boost the country’s coffee exports.
Coffee is a top foreign exchange earner for Rwanda and has contributed an average of 24 per cent to total agricultural exports over the last decade. The crop supports livelihoods of over 400,000 farmers across the country.
By Kelly Rwamapera
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