Felician Sebahire, one of the smallholder farmers in the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Food Security Project (SAIP) intervention site of Karongi District, Western Province reaps big from horticultural farming due to improved agricultural practices and water availability for irrigation.
Sebahire 49, is a resident of Rusebeya village, Gitwa cell, Rubengera sector.
Despite the high returns he gets from horticulture farming, passion fruits remain his major venture because they fetch him higher returns than any other crop.
Apart from passion fruits, Sebahire also cultivates carrots, cucumbers and cabbages on a small scale.
He cultivates passion fruits on 17 Ares and harvests more than 800 kilograms monthly. He says that he takes 800 kilograms to local markets and each kilogram costs between Rwf800 and Rwf1000 depending on the market demand.
“It is encouraging when you get your money after harvesting because it gives you morale to grow more and more to raise extra income,” he says.
“So far I have harvested 2.83 tons of passion fruits for the past few weeks,” he says, adding that he can harvest passion fruits for up to six months from the time the crop matures, depending on the variety that he planted.
Sebahire said: “I thank SAIP for supporting us to reach this far by teaching us improved farming methods and constructing irrigation systems in our area.”
He explains that farming is engaging as any other career, adding that commitment is one of the key elements to reaping such high benefits from horticultural crops.
Sebahire, however, attributes his success to improved agricultural practices and water availability for irrigation availed to them by the project.
He pointed out that agriculture is one of the sectors that could provide employment to jobless youth if well managed.
Sebahire explains that the secret to all this is also getting proper training on horticulture farming to enable farmers to understand how to handle their crop and cut on post-harvest losses.
According to him, apart from selling passion fruits, the family also takes some for home consumption which adds nutritional value to the family's daily diet.
The area where he cultivates passion fruits was used for planting of bananas before land treatment, saying that every month he used to get two jerrycans of local brew from bananas which earned him Rwf5,000.
“The income was very little and it was challenging to take care of my family. After land treatment and the construction of Karongi night storage- irrigation system, i decided to venture into horticulture farming and because horticultural crops have high returns compared to other crops and I find it easy to manage,” he explains.
He adds that he was struggling to earn a living from his banana plantation farm. He was able to produce two jerrycans of local brew and had to rely on a middleman who would buy it at relatively low prices.
Without any formal education, raising his five children was not an easy task; Sebahire and his wife depend mainly on agriculture to survive.
“I thank the project for treating our land and availing us with water for irrigation. Horticultural crops require a lot of water. As a farmer, I am happy and proud to be part of this type of farming and to contribute to spreading improved agricultural practices in Karongi,” he said.
“The project has taught us improved practices of growing, handling and marketing of horticulture crops. Once other farmers get these fundamentals right, they will forever embrace horticulture,”
From income he earns from horticultural crops, Sebahire has managed to pay school fees for his five children and do the shopping, and paying health insurance for his family comfortably.
Sebahire further says the secret to all this is getting proper training on horticulture farming to enable farmers to understand how to handle their crop and cut on post-harvest losses which he attributes to SAIP agricultural extension staff.
He has bought a plot of land worth Rwf500, 000 and on that same plot, he is constructing a residential house worth Rwf4 million, thanks to the income he gets from horticulture farming.
Sebahire plans to buy more land for horticulture farming and looks forward to becoming a successful and model farmer in Karongi District.
Karongi is one of the SAIP intervention sites across Rwanda. The site lies between Rutsiro and Karongi Districts, in Western Province.
It covers a total area of 1086 ha that was developed using comprehensive husbandry technologies that included several land management techniques (soil bunds, terraces, cut-off drains, and water ways among others).
Out of the total area treated with comprehensive land husbandry technologies, 272 ha are subjected to rain fed agriculture, 145 ha gross area in the command area was developed for hillside irrigation.
In the site, there are 2,074 Farmers’ households (1,211 males and 863 females). Farmers have been organized into 110 Self Help Groups (SHGs) spread across 7 zones. SHGs have since formed 2 strong cooperatives and 1 Water Users Association (WUA).
SAIP’s main development objective is to increase agricultural productivity, market access, and food security of the targeted beneficiaries in the project intervention areas across the country.