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Rwanda: Frw 500 mln for organic farming

In a bid to promote organic farming, UK-based Send A Cow International will support the initiation of a regional training centre in organic farming to the tune of Frw500 million.

According to the Director of Gako Organic Training Centre in Kabuga town Richard Munyerango, the non-governmental organization has been training local farmers in various innovative agricultural activities like mixed farming, where animal waste like dung and urine are used in crop farming as organic manure.

The centre, which has trained over 1,500 local farmers, mainly from communal settlements (midugudu), since February 2000, will also benefit regional farmers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, and parts of Tanzania. The farmers who have been trained in the past in groups of 60 have gained skills in maximising agricultural production on small parcels of land as well as on water harvesting from house roofs for irrigation, he said.

Munyerango said the centre now has the capacity to accommodate 60 trainees and, with the use of local technology, taps biogas power from animal waste to prepare meals for the trainees. This protects the environment by not cutting wood for fire, he observed.

The centre started on a 1.8-hectare piece of land, but it has since expanded to over 25 hectares. The future prospect of the centre, according to Munyerango, is to award certificates and diplomas to trainees after turning it into a sustainable farming institution. Courses like sustainable farming and environmental protection will be emphasised, as well as production for export, he revealed.

An American horticulture institute intends to collaborate with the centre in encouraging trained farmers to produce pineapples, mangoes, pawpaws and French beans for export. Various trees have also been planted, such as Neem, Moringa and others that are vital in agro-forestry, animal feeds and human and animal medicines.

Farmers will also be trained on how to produce mushrooms, which are in high demand in markets and hotels, and for export. Mushroom eating can fight various diseases like cancer and hypertension, Munyerango said, adding that a kilogram of mushrooms goes for Frw1,000 and a farmer can produce over 50 kgs can per month.

In two months the project will be in its half cost and in mid 2007 the centre will be fully operating, Munyerango said. He added that the expanded centre intends to embark on fruit processing, milk, butter and cheese packing.

(€ 1 = RWF 643)