Emmanuel Karanganwa,left, with a JICA official, says his life has been transformed through a JICA program to improve rice yields in Rwanda.
Emmanuel Karanganwa gazed contentedly across the narrow valley, a thin streak of vivid green rice shoots carpeting the floor between the surrounding hills.
“My life has been transformed,” he said. “I have been able to buy two hectares of hillside farmland in addition to my rice paddies. I have built a house. I have five children, three boys and two girls, and I can afford better food and education for them. I have almost no problems.”
Karanganwa, 41, is the president of the Corinya Buriba Farmers Cooperative in Rwanda’s eastern province. He was one of more than 12,000 farmers from 61 cooperatives who participated in a three-year JICA financed grass roots project that began in 2010 to help some of the country’s rural people raise their standard of living.
The project had several main objectives: to increase the yields and quality of rice harvests; to expand horticulture production of such crops as tomatoes, pineapples and cabbage; to streamline marketing techniques; and to encourage the central participation of women in all these activities.
JICA and local experts improved the quality of local extension services teaching farmers new techniques in selecting rice varieties, land preparation, planting, use of fertilizers, weeding and harvesting.
Women in particular were encouraged to visit surrounding markets to assess the kind of crops selling well and in what seasons and then plan their own planting schedules accordingly.
“We encouraged the male farmers to see their wives as business partners and not just laborers in the field,” said Jean de Dieu Nkinzingabo, a local government agronomist. “Women now participate in all the activities and some of them are leaders of cooperatives.”
Nkinzingabo acknowledged that Rwanda has always been a farming nation and said that in effect the project was designed to fine tune centuries of tradition in farming experiences and relationships between rural men and women. Today, he said, “Men are accepting the changes. They understand the importance of increased female participation.”
The results have been impressive according to both Nkinzingabo and Karanganwa, whose rice yields, for instance, have increased from 3-4 tons per hectare to 7-8 tons. The amount of planted seed was reduced from 200 kilograms to 20 kilograms per hectare because of better planning and weeding methods.
It is a far cry from the immediate aftermath of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that destroyed everything Karanganwa owned. “Life is good now,” he said.
According to agronomist Nkinzingabo, there are now plans to launch similar projects in other suitable parts of the country.
Learning new rice growing techniques (JICA / Kenshiro Imamura / 2012)