RWANDA – One Acre Fund, in partnership with Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) has launched the construction of a state-of-the-art seed centre to help Rwandan farmers have access to high-quality improved Seeds.

The groundbreaking ceremony of the Seed Centre was graced by Ildephonse Musafiri, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) in Bugesera district on October 6, 2023.

With funding from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Seed Centre will support seed companies, in partnership with Rwandan farmers, to develop their own varieties of crops like hybrid maize, to better serve farmers’ needs.

Speaking during the launch, Musafiri revealed that the Seed Centre at RICA will target big challenges faced by Rwandan seed companies such as lack of technical expertise and access to high-cost infrastructure in order to promote innovation in the seed sector for the benefit of farmers and food security at large.

According to him, maize production per hectare is currently at four tonnes per hectare yet there is potential to actually get a yield of 10 tonnes with better seeds.

The Minister added that that the seed centre was needed given that the use of quality seeds stands at 37 per cent among Rwandan farmers.

Eric Pohlman, the CEO of One Acre Fund, said that seeds are one of the most important things for farmers and the starting point of food security in the country.

“Together with partners, RICA, the government, and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, we invested in a seed centre that can further develop the seed industry in Rwanda. The centre will focus on grain crops such as maize, beans, soybeans, and potatoes,” Pohlman stated.

According to him, it is more than producing seeds, it is about investing in minds and the future of the seed industry and training seed professionals who are interested in producing more seeds for farmers.

On the sidelines of the launch, an annual seed industry roundtable was held, bringing together senior government officials, seed companies, and experts, to provide strategic and technical guidance on the operations of the Seed Centre to better support the seed industry.

“The centre is a result of collaboration between the government and the private sector as well as partners. As Rwanda started to locally produce seeds, especially maize, beans, potatoes and others, the centre is a big boost,” Musafiri said.

He added that the adoption of quality seeds among farmers is still limited in Rwanda since seed companies and multipliers are limited resulting in quality seeds being relatively expensive.

He, however, showed optimism with the project, noting that the new seed centre will carry out research, helping companies select parent seeds and building their capacity in seed production so that many farmers adopt high-quality seeds at affordable prices.

Dr. Ron Rosati, Vice Chancellor, Administration and Operations reiterated that the centre will improve the availability of quality seeds.

The Seed Centre will offer certificate courses for recent graduates and seed company staff on a part-time or full-time basis. A total of 16 students from RICA, the University of Rwanda, and Seed Companies have already joined the courses.