Agric will remain a priority sector – Premier

Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente yesterday commended achievements made in the country’s agriculture sector and pledged the Government’s commitment to further increase funding to the sector  to deal with the remaining challenges.
He was addressing a joint session of the Senate and the Lower House to update the legislators on the status of agriculture sector and new measures itaken for further improvement.
With the sector employing 65.8 per cent of the working population in the country  according to 2017 figures by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, it contributed 31 per cent to the country’s economic growth last year.
Growth of the sector has averaged 5.3 per cent since 2010, he said, adding that funding for the sector has been growing on an average of 9 per cent from Rwf 80.9 billion in fiscal year 2011/12 to Rwf118.6 billion in fiscal year 2017/18.
“Government will continue to increase funding for agriculture as it was recommended by African Heads of State and Government,” the premier said, referring to the Maputo Declaration which recommended at least 10 per cent of national budget be allocated to agriculture and rural development.
“Increasing agriculture budget is critical. This sector has an important role to play in the country’s economy and the wellbeing of citizens,” Ngirente said.
Among the notable achievements in the agriculture sector so far include the increase in production for different varieties of crops such as rice, beans, maize, wheat, cassava, Irish potatoes, and sweet bananas.
Hundreds of thousands of cows have also been distributed to Rwandans under the One-Cow-Per Poor Family programme (313,419 cows from 2006 to March 2018 against a target of 350,000 cows to be distributed by the end of 2017/18 fiscal year).
But challenges remain in the sector, including climate change that is the cause of too much or too little rains that often affect crops, poor infrastructure for agriculture such as unprepared swamps that remain unexploited, dilapidated feeder roads, animal diseases and crop bugs,  lack of skills in the agriculture sector, poor use of land, and lack of financial investments.
The premier said that the Government will continue working to address the challenges through different initiatives such as scaling up irrigation to respond to climate change, investing more in the construction of feeder roads, and make investments in training agriculture professionals as well as acquiring technology in the sector.
“The government assures you that these measures will be implemented working in partnership with different institutions and partners,” the Prime Minister told lawmakers.
Several MPs also brought different issues in agriculture to the attention of the Prime Minister, including lack of enough water for livestock, especially in the Eastern Province, lack of enough veterinaries to follow up on cows that are given to citizens, lack of markets for agricultural  produce, and high interest rates on loans for agricultural projects.
MP Marie Josée Kankera, a member of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), suggested that the government should set up a fund that would help lower interest rates for agriculture loans given the risks involved with investing in it.
“There are still many risks for investments in agriculture. There are issues of climate change, issues of access to fertilisers and many more,” she said.
MP Théogène Munyangeyo congratulated the government for several achievements in the agriculture sector but urged it to do more to address the remaining challenges in the sector.
“Even if we still have a long way ahead, there are great strides that have been made in the sector so far and we need to do more,” he said.
The agriculture sector remains the second biggest contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after services.
The latter contributed 46 per cent to GDP last year while agriculture contributed 31 per cent with industry contributing 16 per cent.

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