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Rwanda and Burundi have received a US$300,000 grant from the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) to scale up wheat production in the region

Wheat-AfricaASARECA also plans to boost SME participation in the region and motivate smallholder farmers to adopt appropriate innovations to improve their yields. (Image source: ASARECA)

ASARECA is a World Bank project, which works towards agricultural research and innovations in eastern and Central Africa, project organisers said.

The grant provided to the region will aim at improving the production of wheat among smallholder farmers by linking them to high end markets. ASARECA will also seek to understand constraints for smallholder wheat production and consumption trends, and profitability potential in rainfed and irrigated areas. This will involve analysing farming systems, alternative crops, inputs and outputs market conditions, land and labour in the region, said ASARECA in a statement.

Josephat Mugabo, head of the socio-economics desk at Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), said, “Currently, Rwanda has 5.6 sq m of wheat, scattered in 11 districts countrywide. With only two major processing plants (Azam and Pembe), it stands in the third position in East African region, lying behind Kenya and Tanzania, respectively.”

Innocent Habarurema, wheat programme coordinator at RAB, said that more than 80 per cent of the wheat consumed in Rwanda is imported, costing the country about US$13mn annually.

"Most local yields are so poor that processors always turn them down and they prefer importing it from Kenya," Mugabo added.

Joseph Gafaranga, a wheat farmer based in Musanze district, Northern Province of Rwanda, said, "Previously, we were relying on the Ministry of Agriculture for support, but we are glad that new players like ASARECA are coming on board."