FAO in Rwanda

Strengthening capacities in pesticide safe use in Tomato and Irish potato production in Rwanda

Farmers planting Irish potatoes in one of the demo plots on which bio-organic pesticide will be used. ©FAO/Teopista Mutesi

Rwanda’s agriculture has experienced tremendous development thanks to national efforts to transform the sector under the Crop Intensification Program (CIP). This growth though has seen an increase in input use including fertilizers and pesticides.

Jean Bosco Zirimwabagabo is a 35 year old farmer in Nkotsi sector, Musanze district. He has been growing tomatoes for the last 15 years.

“I grow tomatoes; I apply chemical pesticides to my field after one month of planting until harvesting," said Jean Bosco.

Like Jean Bosco, most farmers in Rwanda rely on chemical pesticides and some have no knowledge about the existence of bio-pesticides and other safer alternatives.


Leveraging agricultural extension support

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is implementing a Technical Cooperation Programme Facility (TCPf) project “Promotion of safer alternatives to Severely Hazardous Pesticides Formulations (SHPFs) and creation of Organic crops producers Cooperatives for sale as IGA in Rwanda” to promote a healthy, sustainable and hazardous pesticides-free agriculture at national level. It is in line with the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention to which Rwanda is a party.

Using the farmer field schools (FFS) approach, demonstration plots were established to help farmers learn the correct use of pesticides through Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Through adoption of IPM, farmers are recommended to judiciously apply chemical pesticides, bio-pesticides and other safer alternatives.

Over twenty four (24) farmers in Musanze and Rulindo districts are being trained all through this Agriculture Season 2021A (September to February) until harvest, in integrated pest management (IPM) as the appropriate and safer alternative to Severely Hazardous Pesticides Formulations (SHPFs).

Farmers organized in FFS groups learn how to apply pesticides rationally as well as use of bio-pesticides in managing key pests and diseases of tomato and Irish potato. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.

The training was attended also by district and sector agronomists, district cash crops officers and socio-economic development officers from the two districts.

The project is focusing on potato and tomato because these are key crops in Rwanda seriously affected by pests and diseases and thus prompting excessive use of pesticides some of which may be hazardous.

“The majority of potato farmers here in Musanze use chemical pesticides. Even we farmer facilitators didn’t know that bio-pesticides exist. The training exposed me to this new and useful knowledge. I will surely implement it on my field,” says Violette Masimbi Mwimvira, a potato farmer in Musanze district.

Poor pesticides use practices

Although there are no documented pesticide poisoning cases in Rwanda, the farmers say they experience headaches and mild skin itches that last for four to seven days. This is coupled with the fact that they don’t use protective gear while spraying. Some do not follow the recommendations and wash the spraying pumps in the water canals feeding the farms.

“Most farmers in the area mix more than three chemical pesticides going beyond the recommended levels. These practices are learnt from fellow farmers. Some farmers even use pesticides that have been banned by Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), all in the name of boosting production and fighting pests and diseases,” said Enias Akaraha, a potato farmer and an FFS facilitator.

Agro-dealers - most of whom are not trained - sell and advise farmers on pesticide use.

Leon Hakizamungu, an experts from RAB who is also the focal point of the Rotterdam Convention took the farmers through the session on identifying severely hazardous pesticide formulations (SHPFs) under Article 6 of the Rotterdam Convention, that describes a procedure for proposing SHPFs causing problems under conditions of use in developing countries and countries with economy in transition.

“Farmers need to be aware of the dangers of misusing and overusing pesticide to reduce risk to human health and the environment, and sustainable agriculture. We need to produce safe food,” said Leon. 

Potential of promoting biological control methods in Rwanda

The presence of herbs used in the bio-control of tomato and Irish potato presents an opportunity for the farmers to invest in planting the herbs.

However, progress in adopting biological control will very much depend on changing the mindset of farmers to shift from using excessive and non-recommended chemical pesticides to IPM practices.

Mass awareness and mobilization through media channels about hazardous chemical pesticides to both farmers and agriculture stakeholders such as customers and agro-dealers is an avenue to increase the use of bio-pesticides in Rwanda farms.

Creating organic crop producer groups 

Under the project, FAO in collaboration with Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) is conducting an assessment on the effect of use of chemical pesticides and incidents of acute pesticide poisoning with severely hazardous pesticide formulations (SHPF) in Musanze and Rulindo districts.

A comprehensive List of existing SHPFs in the country will be compiled, and importers and suppliers/sellers of pesticides and phytosanitary products will be identified to update record of the different stakeholders of the pesticide supply chain. 

The project intends to facilitate creation of at least two organic crops producers and sellers’ cooperatives. They will be trained in IPM and cooperative management skills.

About Integrated Pest management (IPM)

According to FAO, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an ecosystem approach to crop production and protection that combines different management strategies and practices to grow healthy crops and minimize the use of pesticides. IPM is based on four practical principles: grow a healthy crop; conserve natural enemies; observe fields regularly; and farmers become experts.

Useful link: https://bit.ly/350iOZ4


Teopista Mutesi | Communications Specialist | Email: [email protected] OR [email protected]