For an individual smallholder farmer, sourcing for markets of their products can be a labourious and costly activity. Even after the efforts, one is never guaranteed that they got the best possible deal.
Such challenges are likely to lead smallholder farmers to turn away from farming activities and look for other less tasking economic activities or even farm for their own consumption.
To smallholder farmers in Eastern and Southern Provinces of Rwanda, these challenges have been consigned to the annals of history. This is thanks to a $510,000 partnership between the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative (RWARI) that seeks to organize farmers into cooperatives to bridge the gap between farmers and potential markets to allow them guaranteed access.
Under the intervention, farmers now have signed contracts with major buyers such as Africa Improved Foods guaranteeing market for their produce at a pre-negotiated price. The quality of the produce has also improved as the buyers set the standards that the farmers adhere to.
This is a marked difference from the traditional approaches where farmers depended on middle men who rarely cared about the production process and were always looking for a cheaper bargain.
“Farmers can now concentrate on producing without worrying about the market as this is now guaranteed. We have seen yields go up and farmers’ wellbeing improve,” says Protegene Uwanyirigira, an official at RWARI.
At the cooperative level, farmers can now also access finance from financial institutions as they are assured that they can pay back loans.
In its implementation, the initiative is enabling achieve key and strategic government objectives such as poverty reduction, access to finance and use of better quality inputs for the agriculture sector.
The intervention has also led to major improvement in aspects such as post-harvest handling of produce such as drying and storage.