Venant Ntawuruhunga, a farmer from Northern Province recalls harvesting not more than 300 Kilogrammes of beans per one hectare some years back.
According to the farmer, the production yield gap was caused by poor seeds, poor agricultural practices such as not using fertilizers, soil erosion among many others.
“If I use quality seeds and be guided on better agricultural practices, I can even harvest over 1.5 tonnes from my land,” he said.
Ntawuruhunga is among thousands of farmers that grow beans in Rwanda but are still struggling to get enough production. According to recent statistics there has been low and declining productivity on key crops including beans.
The sector review for quarter two 2020/21 fiscal year carried out by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning indicates that bean productivity was 1.03 tonnes per hectare in 2016/17 fiscal year but was decreased to 0.6 tonnes per hectare in 2020.
The target was 1.69 tonnes per hectare in the 2020/21 fiscal year, but the production remains low. According to annual Rwanda’s Seasonal Agriculture Survey (SAS) 2019/20 edition that covers three main agricultural 2020 seasons A, B and C, the average yield of beans was estimated at 626 kilogrammes per hectare in season A and 740 kilogrammes per hectare season B as well as 1,038 kilogrammes per hectare season C.
Beans production was 226,570 tonnes in Season A on 362,100 ha, a decrease of 10 percent from 2019 season A estimates. The major issues leading to low productivity compared to set targets , researchers say, are mainly the gap in extension services, quality of seeds and timely distribution of inputs-seeds, fertilizers and pesticides among other poor agricultural practices.
The crop is also vulnerable to heavy rains. To control the adverse effects of such rains, effective pesticides or fungicides should be used; a practice which farmers said is largely limited by limited financial abilities.
Government has projected the bean production to increase to 1.86 tonnes in 2021/22, 2.04 tonnes in 2022/2023 and 2.22 tonnes in 2023/2024 as per the government seven year programme- National Strategy for Transformation (NST1).
Agricultural growth is the primary source of poverty reduction in most Agriculture-based economies and considering the Covid-19 pandemic the sector’s services have remained essential but facing budget gaps.
Could new bean varieties fix the gap?
Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) has said that there is need for increased efforts by seed multipliers so as to start scaling up new 19 bean varieties across the country starting September this year.
The new varieties, researchers say, will help the government to meet bean production targets set for 2024 according to National Strategy for Transformation (NST1).
Charles Bucagu, the Deputy Director General in charge of Agriculture Research and Technology Transfer at RAB, said the new varieties have been launched at research stations adding seed multipliers will start multiplication for scaling up and trials in farmers’ fields.
He said that once successful in farmers’ fields, the promotion will follow to help farmers increase production.
“Bean is a key crop of significant economic and social importance in Rwanda. We eye the role of different stakeholders in the bean value chain toward the development of Agriculture in Rwanda,” he said.
The 19 new bean varieties launched include 13 climbing beans and six bush beans. He said that among them, eight are high in iron and zinc content while the remaining are high yielding, with good agronomic and market preferred traits.
“We bank seed multipliers to multiply the new varieties to get basic and certified seeds for distribution for farmers across the country. By September this year, the seeds from new varieties should have reached farmers,” he said.
He said seed multiplication and distribution will help to discover which varieties farmers choose more than others depending on each area or district across the country.
“Through the experience and assessment, then we get to know which varieties to promote or recommend to farmers,” he said.
He said that through trial research stations, it was realized that bush beans produce two tonnes per hectare compared to 700 kilogrammes yield from previous varieties. He also said climbing beans were found to produce 3.5 tonnes per hectare compared to between 1.5 and 2 tonnes per hectare from previous varieties.