Climate & Agriculture
Plants which thrive on Rwanda’s slopes
The steep slopes and acidic soils of Rwanda’s highland areas make them unsuitable for growing food crops. However, with the temperate climate and plentiful rain and sunshine, the slopes are perfect for growing tea.
With ideal growing conditions, Rwanda’s tea is high quality. Historically, it has been sold to blend with lower-quality tea from other countries. But for the future, Rwandans hope to be able to sell their own national brand.
RiceRiceIn this video...Alain and Sonia are at a rice field where many women and children can be seen working. Alain and Sonia talk about the importance of rice in Rwanda.
Investing in agriculture
Rwanda’s government has set a goal to spend 10% of the national budget on agriculture. In 2010, spending had already risen to 7%.
Rwanda’s other main high-quality crop is coffee. Together, tea and coffee make up nearly four-fifths of the country’s agricultural exports.
Barley for beer and green beans are also grown as cash crops; two-thirds of Rwanda’s farmers grow beans. In the marshier areas, rice is becoming important. The target is to have 40,000 hectares under cultivation by 2020.
Grown for local consumption
For local consumption, the most popular crops are plantains/bananas, potatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, cassava, wheat and maize/corn.
MaizeMaizeIn this video...Alain explains the versatility of maize, which forms the basis of many dishes. The plant is also used in crafts, such as woven peace baskets – see the video in Economy and Industry.
Plots of land are generally small (0.5 hectares on average) and often steep. To improve logistics and selling prices, farmers are being encouraged to grow specific crops in groups. These groups are then given help with improved seeds and fertilisers. Harvests of maize, wheat, cassava and beans have risen dramatically with this approach.
Small-scale farmers also raise livestock, such as goats, cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens.
Bananas are king
Plantains/bananas are of great importance to Rwandans. They are grown on over a third of the country’s cultivated land and typically account for at least two-thirds of a small farmer’s earnings. As well as being eaten in meals, the plantains are used in wine (urwagwa) and beer-making.
The whole plantain plant is valuable. The outer stem can be made into rope, the central rib of the leaf used to make fish traps and the juice from the stem is thought to have medicinal properties.
A cool climate for near the equator
Though it lies close to the equator, Rwanda is cooled by the country’s high altitude – most land lies above 1,500 metres. Temperatures average around 21°C year-round in Kigali.
There are two rainy seasons – the big rains from mid-February to May and the smaller rains from mid-September to mid-December.
Temperatures and rainfall vary in different parts of the country. It is generally drier and warmer in the interior and east, whereas mountainous areas in the north and west experience heavier rain and lower average temperatures.