Editorial: Agriculture has more room for growth

Rwanda has been diversifying its exports base with some measure of success in the past few years. Traditionally, it depended on coffee and tea, a heritage from the colonial times that accompanied it for the next three decades without the authorities in place devising new strategies.

That state of affairs was one of the current government’s priority targets; the country could not afford to peg its economic future on uncertainties; a poor harvest, natural disasters or unpredictable global markets could spell doom. The country had to diversify.

Today the results are starting to pay off. Even though agriculture remains a key pillar of the economy, export commodities have widened to include fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables and flowers. In the first three quarters of 2017, agricultural exports increased by more than 20 percent, and that is just beginning.

The sector is expected to grow even further as Rwandair has slashed export cargo airfare from $ 2 per kilogramme to 0.9. All that is a result of the government’s realization that in order to spur growth, it has to play its part by putting in place incentives such as subsidies; hence the reduction in airfares.

Rwanda is blessed by good weather and fertile soil but its farmers have been slow in adopting modern farming and relied more on traditional methods passed down for generations of planting according to the rain cycle.

Today, irrigation and appropriate fertilisers are changing the equation. But there is one hiccup; agricultural land is still fragmented into individual small plots despite the government’s drive towards land consolidation.

Changing mindsets is a difficult task but local authorities should not throw up their arms in the air in defeat, but devise new ways to persuade small holder farmers to share resources for more efficient and increased mutual gains.