In Rwanda about one in four rural households lives in extreme poverty and Agriculture remains the backbone of the economy, accounting for one third of 33% of the total GDP in 2014 (NISR, 2015) and employing about 60 per cent of total employment in a population of 10.5 million people. Overall, agriculture sector growth was 5.5% per annum (p.a.) between 2000 and 2012 and recorded a slowdown in 2013 to 3% before rebounding to 5% in 2014.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations created in 1977 dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. In Rwanda it has been active since 1981 and has financed 15 programmes and projects with a total financing of US$239,4 million, directly benefiting 534,300 households.
There are currently two generations of IFAD-financed projects. The first, designed during the 1980s and 1990s, aimed to develop the agriculture sector in specific parts of the country by identifying all related elements and linking them together. Projects of the second generation, in place since the mid-1990s, call for activities that have an impact beyond the local level. They focus on a single aspect of rural development, such as market access or agricultural production, and its relation to government policies or other national initiatives already in place, to promote their replication in the rural environment. The third generation of IFAD support (from 2016 onward, when additional IFAD funds become available for Rwanda) is expected to take the form of programme support for PSTA III. This would also enable IFAD to scale up some of the more successful innovations generated through its past and ongoing investment projects. IFAD’s country programme has piloted a number of innovations, including a rice intensification system (SRI), crop-livestock integration and intensification, support for water-users’ associations, and development of farmers’ managed veterinary pharmacies, which have now been mainstreamed into government programmes. In addition, new technologies such as the flexi biogas low-cost system are providing affordable energy to remote rural areas, while the apprenticeship programme is helping rural youth gain new skills.
The strategy for stimulating rapid and sustainable economic growth and reducing poverty is articulated in Rwanda’s Vision 2020 which is fostering good governance, development of human resources, private-sector-led economy, infrastructure development, market-led agriculture and regional and international economic integration. This vision is further laid out in the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 2). It delineates the agriculture sector as a key sector and a significant engine of inclusive growth for the country. EDPRS is being structured around four main themes, namely: accelerated economic growth towards achieving middle-income country status; rural development for sustainable poverty reduction; productivity and youth employment; and improved service delivery and citizen participation in the development process. The main objective is to reduce poverty to 30 per cent and extreme poverty to 9 per cent by 2020.
As part of EDPRS 2, the Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation (PSTA III), implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), encompasses four broad programme areas: agriculture and animal resource intensification; research, technology transfer and professionalization of farmers; value-chain development and private-sector investment; and institutional development and agricultural crosscutting issues.
IFAD’s strategy in Rwanda, as documented in its results-based country strategic opportunities programme (COSOP) for 2013-2018, is well aligned with EDPRS 2 and PSTA III, as well as with the IFAD Strategic Framework for 2011-2015. The COSOP’s overall objective is to reduce poverty by empowering poor rural men and women to actively participate in the transformation of the agriculture sector and rural development, and by reducing their vulnerability to climate change.
To strengthen the country’s farmers’ resilience to climate, reduce post-harvest losses and facilitate the access to financial services, IFAD approved a total of US$33,9million to co-fund the Climate-Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP). The project will run from 2014-2019 and is expected to directly benefit 32,400 households. It is targeting poor smallholder farmers engaged in production or processing of specific priority crops (Irish potatoes, Maize and Beans, Cassava), dairy products and horticulture. The project is strengthened through an additional grant of US$7 million, which has been deployed within the framework of the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), which is the world’s largest climate change adaptation programme focused on smallholder farmers, with more than $ 300 million channelled to at least 8 million smallholder farmers.
The project will demonstrate pro-poor and climate-resilient approaches to post-harvest activities undertaken amidst increasing climatic uncertainty. The project component focuses on: Capacity development and business coaching for cooperatives, farmers’ organizations and small businesses and microenterprises involved in delivering products to the market through the creation of HUBs (Component 1); Support for agribusiness investment in climate-resilient drying, processing, value addition, storage, logistics, distribution and other post-harvest activities that reduce product losses and increase incomes (Component 2). As for the other projects co-funded by IFAD in Rwanda, PASP will be implemented through the Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) of MINAGRI (Component 3).
The Kirehe Community-Based Watershed Management Project (KWAMP), which IFAD is financing at a cost of US$41,6 million, is aimed to promote the shift from subsistence to intensified market-based agriculture in Kirehe District, a densely populated area threatened by severe soil erosion. The project supports the creation of sound local institutions for the sustainable management of local land and water resources in 18 watersheds. Creating strong district, watershed and farmer-based institutions capable of sustaining efficient and non-destructive agricultural and livestock production. The project started in 2009 and will close all activities at the end of 2016.
IFAD is also co-financing the Project for Rural Income through Exports (PRICE), for a total of US$37,4 million, to benefit smallholder farmers, and especially woman-headed households and households with little land, involved in the production of coffee, tea, sericulture and horticulture, which is estimated to amount to about 128,700 households. The project will run between 2011-2018.