Farmers from across the country are staring at losses after planting substandard seeds, some of which did not grow normally, while others had very low resistance to fungal diseases.
The seeds include fake watermelon seeds, which did not flower, and some habanero chilli seeds planted in Bugesera District and other parts of the Eastern Province, where hectares of chilli plantations were abandoned after failing to successfully treat the fungal diseases.
Farmers who planted other chilli seeds were not affected, and ended up growing well, with affected farmers calling on the government to do more research and investigations into the issue.
The fungal disease scotches the chilli plant, wilting away and sucking life out of the plant. The desease also moves from one infected plantation to another through wind.
For the fake watermelon seeds, affected farmers and line institutions like Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) have contacted the supplier, a Kenyan firm called Seed Rwanda Ltd for compensation.
“The seeds chilli seeds we planted came with the disease, I planted on two hectares but they all sprouted while sick, more research needs to be done, but it is sad even government seems to be in the dark about this” said Niyigira Valens, a farmer in Bugesera District.
Watermelon is normally harvested in 90 days, but the farmers who planted the fake watermelon variety called Watermelon Julie F1, waited until the usual time elapsed before the plants even flowered, and that’s when they were alarmed.
Many of the affected farmers don’t own the land on which they planted The land is usually leased at Rwf350,000 per hectare near the lake for easy access to water for irrigation, this and purchase of irrigation equipment meant that these farmers lost a lot of money.
Other costs incurred included fuel for irrigation, pesticides, fertilisers, labour, among other expenses.
“Our farmers incurred a lot of losses after they planted fake watermelon seeds sold to them by seed dealers, some are seeking compensation, we want to meet them and assess the situation together but it has not been possible due to the Covid-19 restrictions in place,” said Jean Paul Munyakazi of Imbaraga, a countrywide lobby group for Rwandan farmers.
He said the lobby recived complaints from farmers about other substandard seeds that have been coming onto the market, although they are yet to get conclusive information about them. He said the lobby has asked RAB to help farmers access better quality chilli seeds, adding that “indeed there are chances that a particular seed is what brought the disease.”
Charles Bucagu, the deputy director general of RAB told Rwanda Today that for the issue of the seed-born chilli disease, farmers can only deal with it through spraying or uprooting the diseased plant.
“We are facilitating some of the affected farmers to be compensated from the national crop insurance, but this also has conditions attached,” he said.