Rwanda can reap from a farming model whereby small pieces of land are consolidated and given — upon lease from owners — to agricultural investors who have the required resources to optimise yields, Alfred Bizoza, an agricultural economist has said. Speaking to The New Times, Bizoza suggested the country can utilise its land to meet the increasing food demand for its growing population, and raise agricultural output. ALSO READ: How can Rwanda optimise land use to cater for its growing population? The population increased from 10.5 million in 2012 to 13.2 million in 2022, with an annual population growth rate of 2.3 per cent, according to the 5th Rwanda Population and Housing Census, 2022, by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda. Yet, Bizoza indicated, many Rwandans grow crops on 0.2 hectares of land, indicating that very few Rwandans own five hectares of land, adding that the size of the country does not increase. Indeed, data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources suggests that there were some 1.56 million hectares of arable land nationwide as of 2019. Considering Rwanda’s population stands at 13.2 million, the per capita agricultural land in the country is about 0.2 hectares. “So, with 0.2 hectares, you cannot grow crops on a large scale,” Bizoza said. On what should be done as the best practice, he indicated there should be the creation of well-established commercial zones or farms for specific crops, through the government buying land from residents, and then giving it to the private sector so that they utilise it. “For instance, choose a crop such as [Irish] potato that is suitable for the north, and the private sector can grow it there, and it will be supplied to feed entire Rwanda,” he said. “Then, if we go to the east, we can have a vast zone – like the [Gabiro] Agribusiness Hub project started developing — where a crop like maize can be grown, with the maize produced from there feeding Rwanda and taking the surplus to market,” he said. ALSO READ: How Gabiro residents will benefit from agribusiness hub The Amayaga region in the southern part of Rwanda, such as Ruhango and Bugesera districts, Bizoza said, can be dedicated to cassava growing, while marshlands such as Western Province’s Bugarama valley are used for rice farming. For land to be available to agricultural investors to optimise yields, he said that options should be looked at, citing the agreement between the government, investors, and farmers who have small farms so that they have a stake in the project, through land lease, among others. He indicated the investors who would be venturing into commercial agriculture could create agricultural job opportunities and employ residents. Some residents can even be relocated for better settlement to other areas in order to pave way for the effective implementation of such initiatives. This approach, Bizoza said, could result in producing more yields to ensure food security for the population. ALSO READ: MPs raise concerns over growing settlement pressure on arable land Increasing productivity to meet food needs Jean-Paul Munyakazi, a farmer, and legal representative of Imbaraga Farmers Organisation told The New Times that while an estimated 60 per cent of the working-age population are farmers in Rwanda, there are still food production and availability problems, which he said would not exist if the farmers in questions were effectively carrying out agriculture — even if such a percentage was reduced by half. This situation, he said, is caused by the fact that some people who do agriculture in Rwanda are subsistence farmers who produce just enough to feed their families and farmers with small land that cannot even produce enough for their own family’s consumption. “In some countries such as France, farmers account for 3.5 per cent and four per cent of the population and they feed the country, but for us, 60 per cent cannot feed the country. That suggests that there are people who are not actual farmers,” he said, adding that factories such as those processing rice and maize lack raw materials because of small yields. Some people, he said, are considered farmers, but they lack investments to achieve the intended agricultural yields. He underscored that there is a need for the development of a policy that makes the consolidated plots of land be used by an investor, who can cater to the needs of the land-owners.