Salinity Reducing Food Security and Financial Returns from Rice Production in Rwanda

Vicky Ruganzu, Alexis Shirimpumu, James K. Mutegi

Abstract


Rice is a crucial food crop and source of income for smallholder farmers in Rwanda. Its annual consumption in 2012 was estimated at about 104,000 tons with about 48,000 tons of this covered from imports. In recognition of the great potential of rice in improving food security and household incomes, the government of Rwanda and donors have invested over US$ 10 Million to improve rice production. The average rice yield is estimated at 5 tons/ha but the government rice policy is targeting 7 tons/ha through improved seeds and better agronomy. Most of rice production is done in the marshland. Patches of some crucial marshlands have started exhibiting stunted rice growth, yellowing and low crop yields of less than 3 tons/ha irrespective of use of the right seeds and good agronomy, hence threatening the rice improvement targets. Recently, we evaluated one of the marshlands (Muvumba marshland) to understand the causes for such yield decline. The marshland was demarcated into affected and non-affected patches. The visual and lab analysis of soil and water from affected patches linked declining rice yields to salinity suggesting gradual development of salinity in Muvumba marshland. This paper uses Muvumba data to discuss salinity, the indicators, potential impact of salinity on returns to rice production. Salinity decreased rice yields by about 30% and financial returns by about US$ 1,500 per hectare of affected patches in Muvumba. We recommend remediation of salinity through improved drainage and better fertilizer management. In case these measures do not work, salt tolerant rice species should be adopted for these sites.

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