Putting Nitrogen Fixation to Work for Smallholder Farmers in Africa: Rapid Appraisal Value Chain Surveys in Rwanda and South Kivu, DRC

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A rapid appraisal value chain survey was carried out in Rwanda and South Kivu, DRC, from June to July 2011. The study was carried out using a questionnaire interview survey of the value chains participants, including government researchers, extension agents, seed development units, poultry feed manufacturers, soyabean processing firms, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government decision makers. The questionnaire was designed to elicit information on the role of the four target grain legumes (common beans, cowpeas, groundnuts and soyabeans) in smallholder farm household strategies for incomes, food security, nutrition, sustainable natural resource management (NRM) and gender; production areas and trends; commercialization; value chain structures; opportunities and constraints for grain legume-led growth; and specific research interventions to relax constraints and generate impact. The sample was drawn from each country’s list of public and private organizations engaged in research, farmer training and extension, seed production and distribution, finance, farmers’ organizations, and output marketing and policy making on the focus legumes. A total of 20 interviews were conducted in Rwanda and 17 in South Kivu, DRC. Secondary time series data were collected from ministries of agriculture on release of new varieties; area, yield, and production; and market prices. 

Role of the target grain legumes in smallholder farmers’ strategies for incomes, food security, nutrition, sustainable natural resource management (NRM) and gender equity

The value chain participants’ survey revealed that in Rwanda and South Kivu common beans and soyabeans play important roles in smallholder farmers’ strategies for incomes, food security, nutrition, natural resource management and gender. Common bean is the most important legume for household consumption and for earning cash income. Beans are grown by most farmers throughout the country. Most of the main dishes consumed daily are prepared using common beans. Rwanda has together with Uganda and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo some of the highest per capita consumption of common beans in the world. Because common beans are a basic food staple and cash income earner for rural households and families have few alternative cash crops, beans are very important in strategies for assuring household food security. Common beans are the primary source of proteins rather than animals. Beans play a major role in nutrition. Because the land frontier is closed and households need to use legumes in rotation with other crops for sustainable land management especially given high fertilizer prices, beans are important for NRM. Turning to gender equity, traditionally common beans are a woman’s crop. This is because beans are grown as an intercrop with staple food crops and this reduces conflicts in land use. During commercialization, beans become a marketable commodity and women get disposed. Consequently, beans need to be promoted through interventions in their value chains with other crops that can take over their traditional roles under the control of women.

Cowpeas are less important for incomes, food security, nutrition, NRM and gender equity. This is because there is insignificant production, marketing and consumption of cowpeas. Past agricultural development programs have not introduced, evaluated and promoted cowpeas. 

Compared with common beans, groundnuts are a minor crop. Groundnuts have minimal roles in farm incomes, food security, NRM and gender. Groundnuts are commonly grown in few and small quantities. Groundnuts are traded in the market mostly as green fresh pods and if marketed as dry grain they are processed into flour. Groundnuts are consumed mostly as a sauce with cassava and cassava leaves. Consequently, groundnuts have a more critical role in food security and nutrition in areas where they can be competitively produced and supplied to markets. In these areas they have an important role in gender equity similar to that of common beans. 

Soyabeans are the second most important grain legumes after common beans. But their full potential is still untapped. Soyabeans have very important roles in NRM because they contribute to biological nitrogen fixation and they respond to inoculation with rhizobium. Because soyabeans are a major source of protein they contribute to combating malnutrition especially among children. Soyabeans are much used by women especially pregnant women. When soyabean is cultivated for the household’s subsistence requirements, women control the management and decision making of its production, utilization and consumption. But during commercialization men dominate the decision making and control of incomes. 

Production by geographical area 

In Rwanda, common beans are grown in all areas of the country, depending on the varieties. But the Northern and Western Provinces are the most important surplus production areas for climbing beans and bush beans. The Northern Province has high altitude climatic (rainfall, temperature) and soil conditions that are favorable for climbing beans. More than 50% of soils in the Northern Province are volcanic soils. Beans in these areas are grown in competition with Irish potatoes. By contrast, the Eastern Provinces are characterized by lower rainfall, higher temperatures and poorer soil fertility conditions that favor bush beans. Because of recent improvement in production technologies, climbing beans can now be profitably produced in the middle and low altitude areas. But low rainfall limits production. Because climbing beans have a longer agricultural cycle than bush beans and can be harvested as high as three times within a cropping season, they produce higher yields. Consequently much of the common beans are climbing beans. The most important areas of surplus production for groundnuts are in the Eastern Province: Bugesera, Ngoma, Kayonza, Gatsibo, Nyagatare, Rwamagana and Kirehe. The underlying reasons for the importance of these production areas are favorable rainfall, temperature and sandy soils. Soyabeans are produced mostly in the Southern Province (Muhanga, Kamonyi, Huye, Ruhango, Gisagara, Nyaruguru, Nyamagabe and Nyanza) and the Western Province (Rusizi, Nyamasheke, Karongi, Ngororero and Rutsiro) and the Eastern Province (Bugesera, Kayonza, Nyagatare). This is because the soyabeans are more adapated to less favorable rainfall than beans and rainfall, temperature and loamy soil conditions in these areas are suitable for soyabeans. When beans is not responding well soyabeans respond well because of biological nitrogen fixation. In the Northern Province the most important constraint on soyabean production is altitude. Soyabeans cannot be competitively produced at an altitude above 1,800 meters above sea level. Another factor is that there are several soyabean production projects in these areas being implemented by non-governmental organizations. These include the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative-funded project, CARITAS and TROCAIRE-funded Duhamic-ADRI maize-sorghum-soyabean flour, Counseil Consultatif Des Femmes (COCOF) and Association Rwandaise pour la promotion du Developpement Integrre (ARDI) projects. These projects are contributing to increasing knowledge and skills for soyabean growers, especially agronomic practices and use of inorganic fertilizers. The projects are establishing soyabean processing factories to act as a pump to pull technologies through the system.

In South Kivu, the most important areas of surplus production of common beans include North Kabare, Bunyakiri, Burega, Idjwi (Kula Kula near Rwanda), Rusizi plain, Mwenga and Walungu (Kamanyola). These areas are important surplus production areas for beans because they are endowed with soils, altitude and weather conditions (two seasons allowing two agricultural cycles per year) suitable for bean production. In addition there is land for expanding the area planted to common beans. In South Kivu most of the productive regions are under rebel control. Most common beans come from North Kivu, particularly Ruchuru and Masisi. The soils in these areas are volcanic and fertile. The most important areas for cowpeas are North Kabare though the crop is produced in small marketable surpluses. The majorareas for groundnuts are North Kabare (Katana), Bunyakiri, Kalehe, Uvila and Nyangezi. These areas have sandy soils and weather conditions suitable for groundnuts. Most of the groundnuts marketed in South Kivu come from Goma. The important areas for surplus production of soyabeans are Idjwi, North Kabare (Biravia, ktana, Kabumba, Luhihi), Kalehe and Katana. These areas have volcanic soils and two seasons per year which result in high yields of soyabeans. There have been projects implemented in these areas to promote soyabean production and processing. Soyabeans is also sourced from Ruchuru and Masisi in North Kivu.

Therefore the selected N2Africa target impact zones coincide well with the most important staple grain legumes food sheds. This will likely result in better targeting of interventions at the intersection of major forces driving change and development in the agricultural production systems and thereby facilitate appropriate responses.

Opportunities for grain legume-led growth

Value chain participants reported that opportunities with significant potential to expand grain legume-led growth for common beans, cowpeas and groundnuts lie in sale of dried grains to domestic rural and urban markets as well as regional markets. Aggregate market demand far exceeds current supply for the four legumes in Rwanda and South Kivu. In Rwanda significant opportunities for grain legume-led growth are in exploiting markets in rural areas and urban centers because all Rwandese consume beans as a staple food (especially institutional buyers such as schools, prisons, and hospitals); national strategic reserves of the Ministry of Agriculture; and regional markets in Eastern Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia. Opportunities exist to expand production to supply the local procurements of the World Food Programme Purchase for Progress. There exists a common bean processing factory in the Southern Province producing pre-cooked packed beans. These beans are being exported to Southern Sudan. There are few opportunities for groundnuts. This is because consumption is limited mostly to urban consumers who buy and eat groundnut as a snack and paste for flavorings. Opportunities exist for expanding soyabeans production to supply formal processors, including Sosoma Industries, COCOF, and Soyco. The bulk of the soyabean is currently being used by informal urban processors to produce flour for human consumption and feed for poultry, dairy and pigs. These informal processors are supplied through grain store traders in Nyabugogo market. Currently there is not enough production to meet the demand. Most of the soyabean is imported from Uganda and North Kivu and South Kivu in DRC and Tanzania.  

In a similar vein, in South Kivu opportunities for common beans are in supplying to markets in rural areas and urban centers including Bukavu, Uvira and mining towns in the DRC and regional markets in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia. For soyabeans opportunities are in processing plants including Murhesa factory, Centre Olame. Also informal processors in urban centers especially Bukavu producing poultry feed and blended flour, flour for flavorings, soyabean coffee, roasted nuts and tofu for human consumption.

Joseph Rusike