Rwanda govt turns to power tillers to help small farmers mechanize agriculture
London, March 4, 2021 (AltAfrica)-Rwandan govt has turned to power tillers in bid to help small farmers produce more food and started to engage private sector operators to import more power tillers to ease the cultivation of land for framers and help meet agricultural mechanisation targets by 2024.
Power Tillers are a two-wheeled agricultural implement fitted with rotary tillers which gives a smooth resistance to all farm activities. In fact, it has multiple uses & advantages.
Power Tillers help in preparing the soil, sowing seeds, planting seeds, adding & spraying the fertilizers, herbicides & water
In their efforts to mechanise agriculture, some Rwandans rely on tractors—which are expensive for smallholder farmer and ineffective on hilly terrain.
This means that farmers whose farms are on a hilly terrain rely on traditional farming practices to till their land.
Dr. Charles Bucagu, the Deputy Director-General of Agriculture Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), says power tillers will scale up agricultural mechanization albeit stressing that the private sector will lead the drive.
A power tiller is a walking tractor widely used for rotary or revolving cultivation which is the best choice for small and marginal farmers.
Power tillers can be used on small-scale land with terraces by using hands since they are not heavy.
Figures show that more than 60 per cent of the smallholder farmers in Rwanda have less than half a hectare most of which is on hilly land and therefore need affordable mechanization technologies such as power tillers.
Bucagu said that there are some “young” investors who studied agriculture in Israel and Rwanda who have recently teamed up to import these power tillers.
Call for subsidies
Odile Mugisha is the Chief Commercial Officer at YALLA YALLA Group Ltd—the company owned by these “young” agripreneurs.
The company recently imported 12 power tillers that can till terraced hilly land.
He said: “One power tiller costs Rwf2 million but while some farmers can afford, smallholder farmers are calling for subsidies to be able to buy them and stop leasing.”
One power tiller can till 0.5 hectare per day, he said.
“As the agricultural season B nears, the demand from farmers is high yet the tillers are few,” he added, disclosing that a farmer pays Rwf150,000 have one hectare of their land tilled.
Mugisha said that due to high demand, they are planning to import more than 15 power tillers and set up branches across the country.
“One power tiller can till, level the land, plant seeds, harvest and irrigate. We are also planning to start local fabrication of the tillers,” he said.
Centre for agricultural mechanization stalls
Rwanda seeks to increase agricultural mechanization from 27 per cent currently to 50 percent by 2024.
Irrigation is expected to increase from 63,742 hectares to 102,284 hectares by 2024.
The irrigation master plan shows that 501,509 hectares need to be irrigated across the country.
RAB says that there are still challenges of spare parts for the machines that are not retailed locally and thus imported at a high cost.
Officials say there are no retailers of spare parts since there are still few tilling machines on the market.
The government is still working on establishing a mechanization centre of excellence in which spare parts can be stored but the $12 million project has stalled.
According to the Auditor-General’s report for the financial year ended June 2019, the works-establishing the centre of excellence in farm mechanization- stalled.
In 2017, Rwanda signed a contract worth $12.2 million with Technofab Engineering Ltd to establish the Centre of Excellence in farm mechanization in Kanombe Sector, Kicukiro District.
However, it was noted that the contractor suspended the work at 58 per cent execution due to lack of financial capacity to execute the contract.