Rwandan government in plans to fund irrigation, research

Sunday December 3 2017

Rwandan smal-scale farmers.

Rwandan small-scale farmers. The government is seeking to promote a vibrant and demand-driven research sector that develops and disseminates locally-adapted inputs, technologies, and innovations to improve productivity and mitigate risks. PHOTO FILE | NATION 

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Next year, Rwanda's government will start implementing the Rwf2.7 trillion ($3.2 billion) fourth agriculture transformation agenda, with new targets to drive growth of a sector considered central to achieving middle-income status.

The final draft of the Fourth Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation (PSTA4), only awaits to be adopted into the budgets of the next six fiscal years starting 2018.

The six-year plan includes a response to emerging climate-related challenges coupled with pressure to feed and provide employment to the growing population amid the constraints of limited land. This will see the government invest in irrigation and research.

Projections show the government will increase the acreage under irrigation from 48,500ha to 102,281ha in the next six years to 2023.

This will involve expanding marshland to 60,023ha and hillside irrigation to 13,413ha, while small-scale irrigation will expand six-fold to 28,848ha from the current 4,574ha.

The strategy also outlines a roadmap for tackling inefficiencies in provision of inputs and constraints to value addition, as well as issues around nutrition.

The strategy involved consultations between local, regional and international stakeholders and facilitated by the Agriculture Ministry.

Agriculture Minister Geraldine Mukeshimana said the plan took into consideration the commitments the country made through various conventions it ratified on eradication of hunger and poverty in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Malabo Declaration.

“We also aligned the new strategy to changes in the environment and settlement policies because concerns around climate change and rapid urbanisation were not at the level we see today when we designed the previous phases,” she said.

Emerging challenges

PSTA 4 will be implemented alongside the updated National Agriculture Policy, which seeks to solve existing and emerging challenges in the sector.

Agriculture, which remains largely rain-fed, suffers a number of constraints on productivity and profitability. Farmers’ ability to adequately feed themselves is limited as they are exposed to periodic droughts and floods.

Besides, the growing population has exacerbated land fragmentation as well as soil degradation due to individual parcels shrinking further.

This has negatively impacted the country’s ability to bring food and nutrition security to desired levels even as overall production rises.

Figures from the National Institute of Statistics for 2015 show the overall stunting rates remain high at 38 per cent.

The government says that by prioritising food security and poverty eradication in the PSTA 4, particular attention will be paid to ensuring that agricultural production is nutrition sensitive, sustainable and resilient.

Ms Mukeshimana said the strategy could see food insecure households and specifically those living below the poverty line reduced to 15 per cent by 2023 while a “business as usual” approach would only reduce it to only 21.8 per cent from the current 39 per cent.

Under the updated PSTA 4, the government also seeks to see average income per farming household increased by 5.8 per cent, and the sector’s annual contribution to GDP increased by 10 per cent from 30 per cent to help improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers while also absorbing unemployed rural youth.

Projections show more than 178,000 jobs will be created in the agriculture sector’s value chain through primary production and agro-processing, which will see creation of employment as a result of subsequent spillover to other sectors.

The government will also promote a vibrant and demand-driven research sector that develops and disseminates locally-adapted inputs, technologies, and innovations to improve productivity and mitigate risks.

Minagri says investment in research and manpower will deliver solutions to deal with soil health and fertility, pest, and disease-resistant crop varieties and animal genetic improvement, integrated farming systems, including climate smart agriculture and crop or livestock integration.

These measures are expected to significantly drive up yields per hectare on priority crops like maize, rice, wheat, cassava, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, banana,beans, soya, and others.

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