In February 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), with support from partners, started distributing more than seven million new cassava variety cuttings to farmers in 12 districts across the country.
The new variety was to be grown on 723 hectares and Ruhango, the largest cassava growing district in the country, had the biggest portion, with 343 hectares.
The new cassava variety, known as Namuronge Selection 14 (NASE14), was imported from Uganda, and believed to be productive and resistant to the Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), also known as Kabore which had ravaged previous varieties, leaving farmers in losses.
Félicien Simpunga, a farmer in Kinazi Sector, Ruhango District, is among those who got the cuttings for multiplication.
He multiplied the new cassava variety on about 6.5 hectares of land and, after one harvest, he says the new variety gives high yields.
“It yields about 30 tonnes per hectare if given proper nutrients,” he said.
He, however, said the cuttings were grown late compared to the agriculture season and did not get [enough] rain.
“[As a result] the variety yielded 15 tonnes per hectare. Now, he has extended the acreage for the variety to 15 hectares.
The Kinazi Cassava Plant (KCP) General Manager Emile Nsanzabaganwa told The New Times that they have started receiving yields from the new variety.
KCP buys a kilogramme of cassava roots at between Rwf65 and Rwf80 depending on where it is obtained.
There are eight districts that largely grow cassava in the country, four in Southern Province (Kamonyi, Ruhango, Nyanza and Gisagara); and four in the Eastern Province, namely Bugesera, Ngoma, Kirehe and Kayonza.
Nsanzabaganwa said CBSD that attacked cassava caused losses both to farmers and the plant because they could not get enough produce, which resulted into decreased output.
“KCP has capacity to process 120 tonnes of cassava per day, but we would not even get 30 tonnes per day. You understand that we could not reach 30 percent [of the plant’s capacity] due to outbreak of CBSD,” he said.
The Head of Rwanda Agriculture Board’s Southern Zone, Parfait Aimé Gasana, told The New Times that there was some off-type cassava variety that was mixed with the NASE14 and they advised farmers to uproot them and maintain the genuine variety, adding that because the NASE14 is tolerant to CBSD, farmers should be wary of the contamination of the viral disease to NASE14 when there are affected cuttings in the surroundings.
More cassava cuttings
Gasana said when RAB realised that the cuttings were insufficient, it went to Uganda this year to buy other NASE14 variety cuttings to support the distribution of the variety among more farmers.
For instance, he said, Ruhango District had a target to grow cassava on 14,000 hectares this year, which requires about 14 million cuttings, but it has grown the crop on about 8,000 hectares.
“More cassava cuttings are still needed, but we hope that next year, at least over 60 percent will have been procured,” Gasana noted.
From January to March, 2016, RAB bought 10 million more cassava cuttings from Uganda and were distributed to farmers mainly in the Southern and Eastern provinces.
Leonard Ndagijimana, president of a cassava farmers’ cooperative in Mayaga, Ruhango District, said the cooperative has 21 members growing cassava on about 200 hectares, adding that they lack safe cassava cuttings to grow.
Source: the New Times