Rwanda turns to new farming models to increase production

Monday December 12 2016

Spinach growing through drip irrigation.

Spinach growing through drip irrigation. Rwanda is planning to switch to drip irrigation technology, which saves water and fertiliser, compared with the earlier preferred centre-pivot, sprinkler irrigation. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By Leonce Muvunyi

Rwanda is turning to greenhouse farming and new irrigation models to increase production and address recurring food shortages caused by drought.

Under the revised National Agriculture Policy (NAP), Rwanda is planning to switch to drip irrigation technology, which saves water and fertiliser, compared with the earlier preferred centre-pivot, sprinkler irrigation.

Drip irrigation allows water to drip slowly to the roots of many different plants in semi-arid parts of the country, while sprinkler irrigation systems will continue to be deployed in hilly areas.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture (Minagri), the government is looking at new large scale irrigation models to increase production and to deal with the vagaries of climate change.

“We are re-focussing our agriculture priorities, to make the sector market oriented, and also deploy environmentally friendly methods to ensure ‘green’ agricultural production. Among other things, we are looking at greenhouse farming,” said Octave Semwaga, the director general of strategic planning and programmes co-ordination at Minagri.

Following severe drought and shortage of rain in different parts of the country in 2015, the country experienced food shortages this year which the government blamed on climate change and unpredictable weather patterns.

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Over 44,000 households were affected by hunger, especially in the Eastern Province. As a result, Rwanda is revising the 12-year National Agriculture Policy to align with the changes in climate patterns, in a bid to boost food security.

Agriculture experts warn that countries need to align agricultural policies with the changing global climate to cater for the changes.

“The agriculture sector is evolving day by day, getting more climate-resilient. It is important that planning evolves with the changing situation. Agriculture policies should cater for population growth,” says Prof Nathan Kanuma Taremwa, a lecturer and researcher at the College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Rwanda.

Under the revised policy, Rwanda is looking to cater for challenges and loopholes that emerged in the previous policy, which was thought to be outdated.

“We are obliged to accommodate new aspects emerging in the sector like GMOs, ICT use in agriculture, climate change and organic agriculture inputs to preserve our environment,” said Mr Semwaga.