A New Post-Harvest Model for Rwanda

Maize is a raw material for many agro-processing companies in Rwanda, but major agro-processing companies are seeking the majority of their maize from elsewhere. Africa Improved Foods (AIF), a manufacturer of nutritious foods in Rwanda, sources 80% of the maize it requires from Zambia. 

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Why can't Rwanda supply its demand domestically? The answer lies in aflatoxins, carcinogenic toxins formed by fungi present on many agricultural crops. Whilst aflatoxin-producing fungi can contaminate maize in the field, levels of aflatoxin increase rapidly during post-harvest processing and subsequent storage of grain.

Poor-post harvest processes in Rwanda, in which farmers dry, shell by hand and store their maize for up to two months, has left much of the grain produced in Rwanda with aflatoxin levels far higher than agro-processing companies' acceptable limit of 10ppb. As a result, large agro-processing companies such as AIF and MINIMEX must look elsewhere for high-quality maize. 

To help increase the quantities of maize purchased by agro-processors in Rwanda, Kumwe Harvest is working in partnership with AIF to introduce a new way of processing maize post-harvest in Rwanda. Utilizing our expertise in trucking and logistics, Kumwe started in 2017 by establishing mobile collection centers at farms on behalf of AIF. Using mobile shelling machines, harvest maize is shelled and transported to AIF for industrial drying and storage in the same day. By eliminating on-farm post-harvest processes, the harvest to market timeline is reduced from two months to two days and 100% of maize is accepted by AIF. 

Undertaking a larger, revised pilot in Season A 2018, Kumwe Harvest is maintaining the quality, speed, and payment benefits of the mobile collection centers from 2017, buying unshelled maize from farmers and transporting it to a central facility in Kigali to be shelled. The model maintains the quality, speed and payment benefits of the mobile collection centers introduced in season A 2018, Kumwe Harvest will undertake a larger-scale pilot of this model with support from AIF, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and World Vision. 

Staple crop

This is where Kumwe Freight comes in. A freight transportation company based in Kigali, we are using our logistics expertise to create an innovative solution to the existing maize problem by piloting a brand new model.

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With it, farmers' income increases by 35%, and the amount of high-quality maize being accepted by sellers increases from 20% to 100%. Farmers still grow and harvest their maize as usual, however the process stops at the de-husking stage. Instead of spending precious time and labor on shelling the maize by hand, the farmers can sell their maize on the cob to Kumwe Harvest at farm-gate within two days of harvesting and receive immediate payment. The prices are according to the latest market value, with the weight of the cob accounted for. The maize is then swiftly transported to a central processing facility in Kigali, where they are shelled, cleaned and processed. The rate of aflatoxin growth is drastically slower whilst the maize is still on the cob than as grains, meaning that this new model can eliminate the huge post-harvest waste. It really is that simple.

This model has the potential to revolutionize maize production in Rwanda; its positive impact should not be underestimated. The farmers are the principle benefactors, who gain not only more money but more time, too, which can be used to prepare for the next harvest. Among the numerous advantages of this is that children in rural farming communities are able to attend school, rather than spending their time helping with the post-harvest labor. The minimized post-harvest process allows farmers to save money on buying equipment, which combined with selling 100% instead of 20% of their maize crop, accounts for the increase in farmers' net income by 35%.

Numerous organizations have recognized the huge potential behind Kumwe Harvest’s innovation, including the World Food Programme (WFP), World Vision and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). Field research has proved farmers to be enthusiastic about the project, and have shown keen interest in switching to the cob model. The future for maize farmers is promising!

This is time-consuming, inefficient, and allows the development of aflatoxins. It is clear, then, that this current method is not working for the thousands of Rwandan farmers who suffer from post-harvest losses and a frustrating struggle to sell quality maize for a good price.

[1] Statistics provided by Rwanda Development Board (RDB) show that demand for maize in Rwanda increased from 3% to 17% over a period of 12 years.