This project aimed at manufacturing and providing subsidised hydroponics kits to low-income farmers in Kigali to provide an alternative means of growing leafy greens and vegetables using little water and without soil. Watering is manually carried out from an overhead tank by opening a water tap for only 4 minutes, three times a day. The contracting company also provided seeds, growth substrate and nutrients, as well as regular post-sales customer service and linking farmer produce to markets for sale.
- 41 hydroponics kits provided to low-income farmers in Rwanda
- System uses 30% less water than normal irrigation practices for crop farming
Challenges/Tips for the future
- Strongly recommended to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of partners at the start of the project
- Appreciate beforehand the challenges of replicating a working business model from one country to another (in this case, from Kenya to Rwanda)
- Sharing of relevant information between all concerned parties is crucial for success, including possible pitfalls and threats
Potential for growth
This project was intended as a pilot to mainly test the market landscape in Rwanda. Hydroponics Africa Ltd. Intends to explore local partnership options with farming cooperatives, markets and distributors in Rwanda.
Rwanda Agricultural Board, Hydroponics Africa Ltd, USAID
September 2017 – November 2019
Last project updates
Rwanda a land-scarce country characterized by a predominantly rural population, Rwanda has a history of unsustainable approaches to food security, exacerbated by the collapse of the coffee industry in the 1980s and the genocide in the 1990s. After the genocide, international donors swept in to rebuild the war-torn country, which included projects designed to combat food insecurity. Urbanization rates skyrocketed post-genocide as Rwandans resettled in urban settings, bringing with them problems faced in rural areas. As Rwanda urbanizes, there is a growing demand for food in cities such as Kigali. Close to 90 percent of Rwanda’s labor force is engaged in agriculture, and so for those flocking to cities, it was natural to apply existing skills and expertise to urban agriculture upon arrival in Kigali. An informal institution before being formalized through city’s Master Plan, Kigali’s emphasis on urban agriculture (UA) is to increase food security within the city, and serve as a means for subsistence and livelihood. After seeking out the guidance of the FAO in designing a plan to increase agricultural productivity in Kigali, urban agriculture was officially incorporated into the Kigali Conceptual Master Plan (KCMP) in 2009. The Kigali City government accepted the recommendation of the FAO to focus on urban agriculture, which it deemed to have the potential to aid in the city’s transformation to commercial export of food, generate income, and bolster the urban food supply. Kigali has taken measures to ensure that urban agriculture becomes a sustainable solution to food security for the city. There are challenges to the sustainability of urban agriculture as a solution to food security in Kigali. High population density and growing urban development have created competing interests for land and water. Nitrates, heavy metals, and solid municipal biological wastes, pollute the soils and the water and everything that is grown there. Several diseases are transmitted by micro-organisms such as E. coli and Cholera, and parasites are frequently found there. These pathogens are a serious threat to populations, especially for babies, young children, the sick and elderly, and people with poor immune systems , thereby constraining the productivity and effectiveness of UA in achieving food security goals. Additionally, dependence on the international community for a consistent stream of funding is unsustainable. Applicants and Current Activities Hydroponics Rwanda Ltd incorporated in 2016 is a susidsidially company of Hydroponics Africa Ltd in Kenya, Hydroponics Rwanda has two directors Ms Nadine …. (Rwandan) 50% share and Hydroponics Africa Ltd with 50% share. Hydroponics Rwanda has full functional hydroponics demo farm in Kigali .The farm has vertical hydroponics systems for growing herbs for export and vegetables and commercial hydroponics system for growing tomatoes. Ms Nadine our one of directors has secured order to supply 2,100 kg of herbs in Dubai and Europe every month the farm is about 3 acres and we cannot be able to supply this order. We are currently recruiting out growers of this herbs whom we will install hydroponics vertical systems and offer them crop support as well as nutrients as part of contract. Hydroponics Africa Ltd did a pilot funded by VIA water on vertical hydroponics in Nairobi, Kenya. The cost of these vertical units was between €320 to €380. We targeted poor women in Nairobi and after doing survey we realized that women of lowest pyramid will not afford these systems. We have since then developed cheaper vertical hydroponics unit using different material other than plastic pipes. We are using special net which is made into tube of 8 inches. The cost of such unit is € 250 which is able to grow same number of crops (950 herbs).Now with market of herbs we require over 400 farmers to grow for us so that we can meet order of 2100 kg of herbs per month. The Innovation Our innovation is based on simplified hydroponics, which leverages use of local materials to grow healthy plants automatically without user expertise. Hydroponics technology is whereby the farmer can produce maximum yields on small areas without use of soil while using 80% less water less space (1/3 of traditional farms), less pesticides, less fertilizer, produce 30% more yields. Due to various challenges related to Hydroponic systems (Cost implications, complexity and lack of technical knowhow) we have domesticated Simplified hydroponics to the African context. We have developed a model where we buy back the produce sell to our contracted buyers this will ensure poor women will continue getting income. The Innovation The idea proposed is the manufacture, and sale of cheap vertical hydroponics called Hydro safe for growing herbs or leafy vegetables. One unit is 18 meter squire and can grow 950 herbs or 320 leafy vegetables. Watering is done from overhead tank; tap is opened manually for 4 Minutes or watering by small pump which is timed to water three times per day. The system fills the gutters to a certain level; the overflow is collected in a bucket and re-used.
The strategy of this project is based on two main ideas: 1) Capacity building among the participants for them to engage in self-help projects. This strategy draws from the analogy of teaching the population how to fish, instead of giving fish. 2) To promote family grown vegetable at home and herbs for export to get better income. Using the following strategies: • Motivation. Since hydroponics is not well known in this part of the world, • The starting point will be disseminating information about the advantages of Simplified Hydroponics for the population in general. • Intensive training of family members on the application of SH technology For the production of fresh herbs and vegetables, as well as technical follow-up • Delivery of inputs Hydroponics Rwanda will provide the minimum essential inputs (nutrient solution, tube nets, inert media and support frame work) for people to grow their own herbs and vegetable garden at home. • Beneficiaries of training and units must make a moral commitment; i.e they undertake to commit their time, keep proper recording, give space and water for this project. Hydroponics Rwanda project team will collect most of the data for the pilot project at different stages and also collect some data on the sales and marketing efforts. Data collection will start during the pre-intervention survey throughout the project lifecycle. Customer satisfaction surveys will be conducted too by Hydroponics Rwanda. Validation of assumptions The proposed project assumptions will be validated by Hydroponics Rwanda and Hydroponics Africa through testing the all units and sale of herbs. It will be a back and forth process with urban women, youth and partners, until a viable business model is proven.
We are targeting poor women in urban and pre-urban areas who spend money to buy vegetables and cannot grow because of lack of space and water. We expect this target group will also be able to sell vegetables to earn extra income.
The Hydro Safe project will be sustainable after the pilot, because the repayment model of the new farmers will continue to be practiced. Our goal is that after the farmers are able to compare the results they obtain from using hydroponic systems, that they will adapt it and do it on a larger scale, with the assistance of Hydroponic Rwanda Ltd. Besides the herbs, the vegetables that have been chosen for the project are spinach and amaranth and once these farmers see the increased yield in a shortened amount of time, they will not revert to the old ways of farming. We are aiming for this project to set an example for the rest of the country, so that more farmers can adopt the technology. And hydroponics Rwanda will be able to pass the credit model to microfinance as we upscale to other towns.
Overview of Goals
The pilot project wants to test: • Whether health and quality of life of families in crowded urban communities will improve • Whether hydroponics will result to self-employment of idle household labour mostly women • Viability of our cheap hydro safe units (both PVC pipe and Net tube)Most specifically how long it will take to break even in Rwandan contest. • Whether urban hydroponics sales and training can: o Be used to sustainably improve livelihoods of low-income Urban women and youth and who will own the systems. o Bring opportunities for community participation and collaboration in urban agriculture. o Increase awareness of urban agriculture activities and their benefits to the community. o Enhance community acceptance by providing demonstrable projects. o Result in partnerships with citizens, community groups, and organizations that are also interested in urban agriculture and access to local food.
Results and indicators
- • Enhanced household food security,
- Higher yield per unit area ( target )
- Our Vertical hydroponics units measures 18 m2 and will be able to grow 720 crops as opposed to 210 crops if grown under conventional methods