The challenges of quality and post-harvest grain losses that have for long affected profits of KOBIYAKI Cooperative, a group of maize farmers in Kamonyi District, could soon be history following the launch of construction works for a grain drying and storage facility over the weekend.
The farmers say the facility is timely and could drastically reduce post-harvest losses they have been experiencing and also boost quality.
Zainabu Uwizeyimana, the president of the cooperative, told The New Times that the farmers operating from Yanza and Kibuza marshlands in Gacurabwenge sector, lost 30 percent of the 120 tonnes of maize harvest last season due to lack of drying facilities.
She said the huge post-harvest losses have affected the cooperative’s capacity to supply all its big buyers, including Africa Improved Foods. Uwizeyimana was, however, optimistic that this challenge would also end when the facility is completed.
“Therefore, this facility is timely since we are about to harvest. It will help us improve quality to meet market standards,” she said.
Rwanda losses between 10-30 percent of the total crop production because of poor post-harvest handling methods.
KOBIYAKI Cooperative brings together 426 farmers, the majority of whom (390) are women.
The facility, which will have the capacity to dry and store 300 tonnes of grains, is part of Farm to Market Alliance (FTMA) project that seeks to establish sustainable pro-smallholder agricultural value chain, increase income and foster commercial viability, officials said.
The project has $300,000 (about Rwf258.6 million) annual budget targeting 65 cooperatives of 31,000 farmers in 16 districts. It is being implemented by Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative and is sponsored by UN World Food Programme and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
The construction works of the facility in Kamonyi were launched on Saturday, but they have already set up temporally grain drying sheds that farmers will be using as they wait for the permanent structures.
The cooperative bought the land where the facility will be built, while the construction materials and other requirements will be provided by funders, she added.
The cooperative was founded in 2016, bringing together small farmers associations.
Speaking at the event, John Bonds Bideri, the executive director of Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative, said the project will support seven cooperatives in Kamonyi, which had signed contracts to deliver 390 tonnes of maize to buyers last season.
Bideri added that the project, which was launched in 2011, has also helped increase maize output in participating districts from 1.8 tonnes per hectare to over 3 tonnes presently.
Farmers under the project are also linked to the market and are able to acquire small loans from partnering banks to buy fertilizers and seeds, according to Bideri.
What other farmers say
Laurent Iyamuremye, a member of KOBIYAKI cooperative, said the grain drying and storage facility will enable farmers to improve their capacity to meet market needs and also promote food security.
“When maize grains are not well dried, they are affected by mold which affects quality and endangers humans.
“Therefore, this facility will enable farmers to increase both quantity and quality,” said the farmer who harvested over 400 kilograms of maize last season.