By Godfrey Ntagungira
OF the various reforms in the country of a thousand hills has taken up over the past years, the one that set to have the longest impact is in agriculture. The sector’s development authority RADA is among the many institutions recently that were put in place in respect of devotion of modern agriculture in the country. Established in 2004, RADA has caused a revolution in farming.
The government decided to place highest priority on agriculture and food security as the basis for economic transformation and change within the shortest period of time.
In recent years, the government of Rwanda has successfully conducted various exercises of participatory planning and prioritization of interventions that have resulted in the publication of reference documents: Vision 2020; Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), and for the agriculture sector: National Agricultural Policy NAP, and the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture PSTA II .were put in place.
The beginning of the 21st century is also marked at the global level, with new commitments from the international community to address basic issues relating to economic and social development in a national and international environment facing rapid change. The establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is the most significant manifestation of these commitments.
The first objective is to reduce extreme poverty and hunger by 50% by 2015. The MDGs were reaffirmed at the World Summit in 2005, and became a driving force for the UN system, including FAO. In this spirit and within the framework of its mandate Rwanda has adopted a strategic framework in order to contribute to safe food and nutritionally adequate diet, accessible to all and at all times, sustainable agriculture and rural development, ensuring economic and social well-being of all and conservation, improvement and sustainable use of natural resources.
The government of Rwanda decided that within a period of five years, Rwanda must be able to feed itself and that after that period; no child in the country should die of hunger, starvation or malnutrition.
In order for Rwanda to be able to feed her people within, intensive efforts have been made to ensure that the country is food secure.
In the implementation process of EDPRS, the government through efficient utilization of land and water resources for irrigation, increased use of best bet soil fertility management technologies, increased access to farm inputs, mitigation against climate change, use of improved seed for drought tolerance, improvement of storage facilities to reduce post-harvest food loss, value addition and marketing systems for agriculture products.
The Vision 2020 is built on six pillars, the sixth one being the “modernization of agriculture and animal husbandry for productive and market-oriented agriculture. The medium term strategy for achieving the Vision 2020 is contained in the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy( EDPRS 2008-2012) which is the second generation of the PRSP (PRSP I being accomplished in the period of 2001-2006).
EDPRS identifies seven priority areas, including two that are relevant to food and nutrition security: “Poverty and vulnerability reduction” and “rural development and agricultural transformation.
The National Agricultural Policy (NAP) was adopted and is based on the guidelines of Vision 2020. Its overall objective is to ensure sustained economic growth through poverty reduction and increasing farmers’ incomes. Its specific objectives are:
i) Empower rural communities as active actors in the development of agriculture
ii) Boost agricultural production, livestock and forestry through improved productivity of land and water
iii) Increase cash income through diversification of economic activities in rural areas
iv) Strengthen the link production/market
v) Sustainable management of natural resources and
v) Improving the economic and social status of women and youth farmers in rural areas.
For the implementation of the NAP, the Strategic Plan for Agricultural Transformation (PSTA II) has been developed through close consultation and collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) and key partners.
RADA’S INSPIRING ACHIEVEMENTS
Since time immemorial Rwandan farmers have practiced traditional agriculture, RADA is changing the trend with establishing a radical shift from traditional farming methods to a mechanized sector with the drive to increase the productivity of arable land.
Last year 2009 the mechanization unit engaged in an initiative to make agricultural machinery available to farmers. In the beginning `20 tractors, 50 power tillers and primary and secondary tillage implements have acquired by RADA. The agricultural machinery is being distributed to farmer cooperatives at a subsidized price. Again cooperatives have accessed credit to enable them purchase these agricultural machines and implements.
Currently the average energy intake has increased from 1,734 kcals to1, 856 kcals/person/day, now its 2100 kcal/per/day.
BOOM IN FERTILIZERS APPLICATION
In motivating farmers to apply fertilizers RADA had to put up a number of demonstration farms to enable farmers witness the benefits of fertilizers for themselves.
Agricultural intensification has been promoted in both crop and livestock production, the application of inorganic mineral fertilizer has increased from 11% to 25 %, and the use of improved seed has increased from 24% to 33.63 %.
Today fertilizers are easily accessible than ever before and delivered directly to farmers through private distributors. The government subsidizes about 60 percent of the cost of the fertilizers.
TERRACING MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Among the benefits of terraced farming, it conserves the soil as it slows rapid surface run-off which would erode the soil as it wipes off the top layer depositing it further down the hill. It creates flat areas on each of the terraces (steps).
Rwanda takes terraced farming as away of combating the erosion of the top soil since 1973. Terraces halt run off and soil erosion.
The area protected against soil erosion has increased from 40% of the agricultural land area in 2006 to 82 %.
Type of production
Improved seeds production
The area of reclaimed marshland has increased from 11,105 hectares to 16,442 hectares currently its 12,000 ha. Basic food crop production is scheduled to rise by 15% over the EDPRS period, Marshland development
The number of farmers’ cooperative specializing in priority commodity chains has more than doubled rising from 1 to 3.6 percent per district.
Through RADA, the government has encouraged the private sector to be part of modernizing agriculture so across the country the number of private seeds multipliers is currently estimated at 312.
The crop intensification sub-program started in August 2007, the beginning of the cropping season 2008 A. It is in this regard that Rwanda has registered a tremendous economic growth where in 2007 the GDP was 7.9 % with 0.7 % of agricultural growth and in 2008 it increased at 11.2 % of GDP with 15.0 % of agricultural growth.
POSTHARVEST HANDLING INFRASTRUCTURE
RADA has carried out the advisory and training role to farmers in modern techniques of cultivation, post harvest technology, training to employees of Regulated Markets in grading and quality control aspects and guidance to farmer exporters in export quality production, systematic production, harvesting, handling, packaging, storage, transportation and export marketing.
Since December 2009, RADA has set up Strategic stock reserves of 7,000 MT of maize and 3,000 MT of beans in five sites: Kicukiro, Nyanza, Nyabihu, Nyagatare and Rusizi.
In a related development agricultural production drive in 2009-2010 a number of postharvest infranstrures were installed:
36 sheds (collection centers)
184 sheetings distributed
115 shellers machines distributed
Finally, Rwanda is a focused on an approach that highlights agriculture and food security as the springboard for growth supported by strategic transport infrastructures, energy development, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and climate change mitigation. Also the country has focused at improving agriculture and food security through innovative interventions that comprise subsidies, increased budgetary allocations, private sector investment and affordable information and communications technology.