EDITORIAL: Rwandan farmers need help to appreciate modern farming methods

Saturday June 11 2016

By RWANDA TODAY

Rwanda launched its State of Environment and Outlook Report 2015 last week, which gives an in-depth analysis of how the agriculture sector is heavily rain-fed dependent.

On Tuesday, the Food and Agriculture Organisation hosted a workshop in Kigali that sought to discuss improvement of food security in cross-border districts of Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, in support of the modernisation of agriculture.

The above two landmarks point to one thing: That there is real concern about climate change.

Although there are still counter-arguments that belittle the impact of climate change, most scientists unanimously agree that the climate is indeed changing.

Agriculture, which is still reliant on rain and subsistence methods, remains the most important economic sector in Rwanda contributing 33 per cent of the GDP and is currently growing at an average annual rate of over 5 per cent, representing 55 per cent of the country’s exports.

Most Rwandan farmers are not aware of the scientific intricacies of climate change or how to mitigate its effects but suffer the consequences anyway.

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Government has been keen on interventions to move agriculture from subsistence and rain-fed to efficient systems which employs irrigation, fertilisers and more advanced methods.

In 2011, Rwanda produced its Green Growth and Climate Resilience National Strategy for Climate Change and Low Carbon Development — and this has helped to concentrate action against pollution and other challenges to the environment. The country is also internationally renowned for its proactive stance on plastic bags.

But whereas Rwanda is equipped with excellent green policies, the average farmer is ignorant about the benefit of these policies. There is a need for the farmers to be equipped with proper knowledge about these policies.

Rather than be directed to implement mitigation actions, farmers need to be educated about why they need to implement and be part of these government actions.

Much as government has put up irrigation schemes countrywide, and even preached their value, many farmers are still sceptic and still rely on the now highly unreliable seasonal rains. This has affected food security in the grassroots where people grow their own food. In fact, more Rwandans now rely on food markets for their daily food needs.

Many irrigation schemes are underutilised, some are even failing to take off, all because farmers are largely not knowledgeable about how irrigation can be a substitute in times of drought.

Therefore, the ministry of agriculture and its stakeholders have to accelerate farmer empowerment campaigns, scale out meteorology services and ensure that agriculturalists are always ahead of changes in weather and climate patterns.

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