On a shiny afternoon in Rucumbo village, Nyabicwamba cell, Gatsibo sector, Gatsibo district, members of smallholder farmers organized under Tuzamurane Self Help Group (SHG) are busy picking chili pepper yield before transporting it to a collection centre.
The group of nine people ventured into chili farming after receiving support from Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Food Security Project (SAIP), in terms of improved agricultural inputs and irrigation system, among others.
“Before the introduction of chili in our area, we were mixing a wide range of crops such as beans, maize and vegetables on this particular land where we have cultivated chili pepper and the yield was very low,” said Jean Pierre Nzamenya, leader Tuzamurane SHG.
He added when SAIP intervened in the area, they were told to venture into commercial agriculture to generate enough income and revenue from farm sales.
According to him, the farmers were taken to an agricultural study tour to another SAIP site in Nyanza district to learn about chili pepper farming from their counterparts who had already embraced the cultivation of the crop.
After agricultural study tour, Nzamenya said, farmers formed Tuzamurane SHG in order to venture into large scale chili farming.
“We cultivated chili on 80 ares and we managed to harvest 1.5 tons of the chili yield on a weekly basis for a period of three months. The income we got from chili sales is more than 7 million Rwandan francs,” said Nzamenya with a huge smile on his face.
He said that the group has now prioritized chili pepper farming due to its good returns, adding that the quality of the crop yield, its robustness and income generated has exceeded their expectations.
“We thank SAIP for supporting us to venture into a crop that is bringing in more income than other existing crops like grains and vegetables. SAIP has created an enabling environment that makes agriculture an attractive and profitable venture for all farmers,” said Nzamenya.
He explained that SAIP provided them with seeds, farming extension services, chili agronomy training and market linkages.
According to him, the availability of water for irrigation that was also availed to them by SAIP has also enabled them to turn to commercial farming because they are able to irrigate their crops all year around.
“Some people may think that smallholder farming is not profitable, but when farmers are empowered, it becomes profitable. We thank SAIP for supporting us to shift to commercial agriculture," said Rehema Nyiramukesha, one of the members of Tuzamurane SHG.
Nyiramukesha said that supported her and fellow farmers to access improved agriculture inputs, capacity building skills and water for irrigation which enhanced their efforts to cultivate high-value crops.
Since its inception in December 2018, SAIP has boosted agricultural productivity, with much of the emphasis on commercializing agriculture using modern inputs and encouraging the integration of smallholders into agricultural value chains, particularly those producing for export markets.
SAIP’s main objective is to increase agricultural productivity, market access, and food security of the targeted beneficiaries in the project intervention areas.