A unique “coworking space” for farmers in drought-stricken Rwanda will soon offer local growers a sustainable way to produce crops.
Agriculture accounts for a third of landlocked Rwanda’s GDP but relies on rainfall and suffers low levels of productivity.
The unique site, including its purpose-built water source and an energy network, was designed by Israeli precision irrigation pioneer Netafim and built in cooperation with Rwanda’s government, which provided $50 million in funding.
The Gabiro Agribusiness Hub is located in the Nyagatara region of Eastern Rwanda on land that was previously not suitable for farming.
Government representative Uwituze Solange said the hub will enhance food security and employment by de-risking this sector through infrastructure development, increased agricultural productivity, diversification and value addition, risk mitigation and market opportunities.
The first phase of project covers 5,600 hectares with 30 percent allocated to local communities and the remaining sections to commercial farming blocks. Eleven investors plan to start farming on 4,000 hectares of the site in the fourth quarter of this year. No capital expenditures are required for equipment or training.
“Irrigation infrastructure allows farmers to have reliable access to water throughout the year, reducing their dependency on rainfall. This leads to increased crop yields and higher productivity, which can attract private sector investments by offering a more stable and profitable agricultural environment,” Solange tells ISRAEL21c.
“With irrigation, farmers can grow a wider range of crops and engage in agricultural activities throughout the year. This enables diversification and value addition, as they can cultivate high-value cash crops or engage in agro-processing, which can be attractive to private investors seeking profitable ventures.”
Initial investors are governments and international companies aiming to provide quality agricultural produce to their citizens, she said.
Solange explains that increased production and improved crop quality will enable farmers to meet market demands consistently, offering a predictable supply chain for their products.
Netafim Gabiro Project Manager Michael Bruderli says Netafim’s engagement in the Gabiro Agribusiness Hub project “is guided by our commitment to fight scarcity of food, water, and land for a sustainable future through the deployment of precision irrigation.
“We pioneered the concept of this kind of agricultural facility to address some of the barriers to entry for sustainable farming and more broadly to meet the pressing challenges of climate change and low productivity in agriculture.”
Bruderli tells ISRAEL21c that Netafim’s precision irrigation solutions can save up to 50 percent in water for agriculture, double most crop yields, and significantly improve crop quality.
“We intend to replicate this successful model elsewhere, using Gabiro as a blueprint for how public-private partnerships can transform agriculture and benefit communities. Our vision doesn’t stop at Rwanda; we are driven to innovate models that make advanced, sustainable agriculture accessible and successful worldwide.”