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By Capital FM, MUSANZE, Feb 4 – Tourists flock to Rwanda’s mountains to see its famed gorillas, but now the small nation is working to diversify its economy with a natural insecticide farmed on nearby fertile foothills.
Pyrethrum, a natural insecticide, is ideally suited to the climate in the foothills of the Virunga mountains where the gorillas live, in the north of Rwanda.
“It’s used to make natural insecticide,” explains Laher Nyirakwiha, a barefoot 70-year-old farmer as she tosses a handful of small daisy-like flowers into a wicker basket.
Few grow the plant commercially: only here, in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania and in Australia, mainly on the island of Tasmania.
The revival of this crop, first introduced in colonial times, is one of Rwanda’s recent attempts to diversify its sources of foreign currency, generated mainly by tea, coffee and tourism.
Agriculture still accounted for one-third of the economy of this densely populated central African country in 2012.
“Rwanda decided to develop pyrethrum as a cash crop, so as to get an additional source of revenue for farmers and another foreign exchange earner,” Jerome Mureramanzi, production manager at the Rwanda Pyrethrum Company (Sopyrwa) told AFP.
Pyrethrum was first introduced here as a crop in 1936, but dropped off after Rwanda’s devastating 1994 genocide, only being revived a decade or so later.
Tasmania is currently thought to be the world’s biggest producer, industry sources say, although Kenya, another big producer, stopped publishing statistics a decade ago.
The pyrethrum is exported to the United States,