A new policy seeks to make agriculture and livestock more productive at the same time ensuring proper utilisation of natural resources and sustainability for future generations – officials have said.
During a Friday consultative meeting between MINAGRI and over 100 farmers on the new agriculture policy, Dr. Octave Semwaga, the Director General of Strategic Planning and Programmes Coordination at MINAGR,I said the policy intends to increase productivity on both farm and livestock to optimize sector benefits.
The programme puts emphasis on value-addition to agricultural produce through setting up agro-processing units, and enabling proper post-harvest handling to avoid losses.
Semwaga said they were looking for ways to avail crop and livestock varieties resistant to climate change related issues. The move is in line with carrying out resilient agriculture against climate change shocks.
Helping farmers get good returns on investment
Semwaga said that a farmer might buy a kilogramme of seeds for Rwf500 or Rwf700, yet when they sell their harvest, they get like Rwf20 a kilogramme, noting that the policy is considering ways to address such issue so that a farmer gets more income.
“A kilogramme of a given commodity might be costing Rw500 in Kigali, yet a farmer in Bugesera District gets Rwf100 on the same commodity because of not being aware of the market prices,” Semwaga said.
The use of ICT in agriculture, according to him, will help farmers get good prices for their crops through access to information.
Since agriculture contributes about a third to the country’s GDP, Semwaga said they want that financial institutions venture into agriculture and livestock sector.
Moreover, the policy intends to build the capacities of farmers and provide them with skills in a bid to harvest quality produce that is competitive on international market.
Nutrient-rich crops to address malnutrition
Semwaga noted about 38 percent of children in the country are stunted, which is a very high rate. The new policy is setting up efforts that will promote the growing of crops that are rich in nutrients so as to improve nutrition.
Eliezer Nkundimfura, a farmer from Karongi District, said that “we face difficulties in accessing fertilisers and improved seeds on time. In addition, fertilisers and improved seeds are expensive such that smallholder farmers cannot afford them.
“We also face the issue of climate change such as drought and we experience losses because our crops fail. We need insurance or a guarantee fund for our crops,” he said, expressing optimism that the new policy will help them address their challenges.
Why the review of the policy
The current agriculture policy was developed in 2004, and MINAGRI officials said that there have been a number of changes since then which necessitated that it be revised to move with the times.
Fulgence Nsengiyumva, the Minister of State for Agriculture, noted that for the policy needed to be revised to take into consideration the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are in line with the government’s policies and programmes.
Those policies include the environmental protection and settlement among others.
Giving an example on the change in land use for farming purposes, Dr. Semwaga, said that: “You might realize that the land that we planned for agriculture was designed for human settlement. There might be some marshlands that we said we would develop [for farming purposes], yet they are reserved for environmental protection”.
Before the policy is taken to the cabinet meeting for approval in February, 2017, Nsengiyumva said that it will first be taken to local leaders so that their views arev taken into consideration. The policy is due to being being implemented in 2017.
Figures from MINAGRI shows that there are some 1.4 million hectares of arable land available, with 0.5 hectares of land per capita, which requires for proper land use and management to maximize profits.
The Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda Phase III (PSTA III), which aims to intensify and commercialise agriculture, targets to attain an annual agricultural growth of 8.5%, annual export growth of 28% and 40% of land under modern agriculture in 2017/2018. Currently, agriculture growth is estimated to 5.5 percent.