Experts moot next phase of new agricultural plan

Sunday June 11 2017

A farmer inspects her crop. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A farmer inspects her crop. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

By Johnson Kanamugire

Low productivity, increasing land fragmentation, limited funding both for research and skills development hamper transformation of Rwanda’s agricultural sector.
Now, the country is developing the fourth strategic plan for agriculture transformation (PSTA4) that will be implemented over the next six years even as experts urge an overhaul of policies and strategies.

Under the PSTA3 that ends in the next financial year, considerable progress was registered in crop and livestock intensification.

Reports indicate there has been inefficiency of input vis-à-vis average yield tonnage per hectare coupled with limited availability and adaptability of seeds, blamed largely on inadequate funding for research and skills development.

“Overall, the yield per hectare has not increased significantly in spite of quite significant investment in the inputs. So this is one of the areas where MINAGRI (Ministry of Agriculture) would like your brains to link the input use and per capita productivity,” said Dr Dennis Karamuzi, a consultant who documented PSTA III implementation progress.

Speaking at the knowledge seminar held in Kigali, Mr Karamuzi says the platform brought together agriculture experts to contribute to the design of PSTA4.

The review of the PSTA III implementation revealed the increasing fragmentation of land driven by the growing population, with more than 30 per cent of the farmers holding less than 0.2ha each.

Dr Xinshen Diao, a senior research fellow at International Food Policy Research Institute said most are farming marginal land on hills, hence get extremely low yields with high risks of land degradation.

“Often they are poor and cannot farm their way out of poverty and malnutrition,” Dr Diao said.

Limited land

Researchers show that limited land constrains prevent many rural households from participating in high-value agricultural production.

Experts suggest policies that are customised to the different segments of the farming population if the country is to achieve market-driven agriculture.

Agriculture Ministry officials said they would like an open exchange of ideas and experiences to help in the design of a ‘robust and realistic’ strategy that responds to the issues at hand.

“We would want to get our strategies right. We will be thinking in terms of food systems and not just physical yields. We are also seeking to merge agriculture with the social protection so that we don’t leave anyone behind,” said Minister Geraldine Mukeshimana.

PSTA4 is expected to be implemented alongside the new National Agriculture Policy, putting a particular focus on a productive, green and market-led agriculture sector.

Stakeholders however challenged the government to make sure farmers are at the forefront of the design of the new strategy in such a way that they can determine what is best for them and get empowered to do so.