A study conducted by three agriculture researchers on strawberry value chain and market assessment in Rwanda indicates that more efforts need to be put in place to promote the crop which is identified among the high value fruits promising to yield big and transform farmers’ livelihoods.
The study carried out by Straton Nsabimana, Dr. Fidèle Niyitanga and Dr. Fabrice Musana was funded by Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV).
According to findings of the research released yesterday, at least US$1,964,000 (approximately Rwf2 billion) is needed to address challenges affecting strawberry farming related to inadequate knowledge in best farming practices, equipment for storage of produce and seeds.
The funding is also expected to cater for market expansion, extending research related to the crop and rolling out campaigns to encourage farmers to grow strawberries.
Dr. Jean Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources has revealed that the Government is ready to support strawberry farmers to increase productivity considering the potential of the crop at the local and international market.
“The Ministry is mandated to ensure smooth execution of projects meant to benefit farmers. Through collaboration with the Netherlands, we want to introduce quality, high yielding and disease-resistant seed varieties,” he said.
“It requires funds to train farmers, provide capital and promote strawberry farming. That is why private sector investment is of critical importance. We want to design budget plan for farming of this crop to lay the foundation for farmers willing to grow strawberries,” added Dr. Ngabitsinze.
He explained that the ministry is making possible efforts to reduce current strawberry imports which stand at 63.7 tonnes per annum.
The owner of Entreprise Urwibutso, Gérard Sina who is also engaged in strawberries farming has emphasized that the crop doesn’t take long to harvest and is promising to yield big for farmers if best practices are embraced.
“Strawberry is a good crop that can transform farmers’ livelihoods in a short period of time because it only takes three months to harvest. I have been growing strawberries since 2000. I use the produce to make juices, yoghurt and other products that require strawberry flavours. A farmer growing strawberries is assured of improved livelihoods and cannot depend on hard labour. In good conditions, farmers harvest twice a week and are assured of a reliable market because they are contracted to supply the produce to our plant,” he said.
Sina stressed the need for thorough research to identify appropriate strawberry varieties to be planted in Rwanda for farmers to yield bigger returns.
Adelphine Ingabire, a Rwandan living in the Netherlands revealed that investing in strawberry farming is an optimal choice considering the high demand of the crop which is used for different purposes.
“There are many reasons one should stick to growing strawberry. It is not a popular crop in Rwanda but is highly rich in nutrients and doesn’t take long to harvest. Three months are enough for farmers to start supplying the market at competent price,” she noted.
Rwanda has five varieties of strawberries. Two of the varieties including Bravura and Furora were introduced from the Netherlands and are producing higher yields with quality fruits.
The country registers 1000 strawberry farmers.