*Unconventional mitigation methods urged
Delayed rains are likely to reduce agriculture production by half next year, from 16 percent in 2008 to 8 or 7 percent, which could have a direct impact on the country’s projected economic growth rate.
Addressing a local government and inter-ministerial meeting yesterday, Agriculture Minister Agnes Kalibata said that unless unconventional methods are applied, agricultural output could reduce by half as a result of the delayed rainfall which has affected the planting season.
“We have a problem here, the rains have delayed, it is late October people haven’t planted yet, we have improper coordination at the grassroots, the population has relaxed and we are likely to see what we achieved in the agriculture sector reduce,” Kalibata warned the leaders who were gathered at Prime Holdings.
She said that as a result of the delayed rains, only half of the country will be productive, as of today, it is only the Northern and Western Provinces as well as Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe districts (in the Southern Province) that have so far received rainfall and have started planting.
“2010 Season A, we expect the Northern and Western Province to play the compensation part and grow as much as possible. There shouldn’t be any room for complacency as the whole country will be depending on you for food supply, otherwise we are likely to go back to square one,” Kalibata warned.
The Eastern and Southern Provinces are still undergoing a drought spell while Kigali, which is arguably the lowest agricultural producer-but highest consumer, continues to experience low precipitation.
District leaders were urged to implement the land consolidation programme which has not taken shape yet it is one of the ways to make land more productive and directly increase agriculture.
A report by MINAGRI indicates that districts have failed to utilise land set aside for the Crop Intensification Programme (CIP).
Out of the 11295.5 hectares of land planned for CIP in Kirehe, only 552 hectares are planted, but this is blamed on the prolonged drought while in Kamonyi district, only 271 hectares of the planned 1,300 have been put to use.
Muhanga has planted 406 of the 100 hectares, Nyanza 17.2 of 500 hectares; Rwamagana planted 1097 of 4,028 hectares while Gisagara and Huye haven’t cultivated any. However District mayors refuted the figures saying that they are outdated.
Kalibata urged residents in areas with low rainfall to grow buffer crops that don’t require much rainfall like cassava and improved breeds of maize and beans that grow faster. They are available at the ministry as well as fertilizers.
However, farmers have been urged to stay put as intensive rains are expected in 10 days time (early November), while those with marshlands should grow high yielding crops to beef up the country’s food security.
Musoni sounds warning
Finance Minister, James Musoni warned that reduced agricultural output could have a direct impact on the projected economic growth as the economy heavily relies on the sector, meaning that when the sector’s growth declines by a half, economic growth also reduces by the same.
“If production in the sector reduces from 16 percent to eight percent, yet we projected the economy to grow by 9 percent, we could see this growth rate reduce to 5 or 4 percent, unless something is done to keep agriculture production stable,” Musoni warned.
“With all these concerns to do with climate change, it is high time we shifted from a rainfall based agricultural sector or the consequences will be heavy. Rainfall is very unreliable today and therefore we need to embark on unconventional methods like irrigation,” he added.
He said that research has shown that Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing desertification with reduction in the amount of rainfall and only unconventional methods and hard work as exhibited last year will save the situation Neighbouring countries are already battling hunger and drought as a result of poor unpredictable rainfall.