We need baseline data on agriculture sector

Editor, Reference is made to the article, "Does urbanisation pose a threat to agriculture?" (The New Times, November 19).

Editor,

Reference is made to the article, “Does urbanisation pose a threat to agriculture?” (The New Times, November 19).

Allow me to express my gratitude to this interesting article on agricultural productivity and urban development. Rwandan urban planners are apparently doing their job and we hope that by 2050 Rwandan children will not have to pay for the fatal errors their forefathers committed.

The story mentions that, “A little less than 80 per cent of Rwanda’s population is employed in the agriculture sector, with the sector said to be meeting 90 per cent of national food needs and fetching more than 70 per cent of total export revenue”; however, it does not credit sources.

I would therefore want to add that 80% of Rwanda’s population depends on subsistence agriculture (hand to mouth). The percentage of the population practicing commercial or industrial agriculture seems to be unknown or significantly low to be mentioned in the article.

There is no doubt that we need credible baseline data to evaluate our economic transformation process. 2020 is the year Rwandans, rural and urban, will sit back and assess the changes promised by our leadership; but how will this be done if our baseline data is dubious, skewed and erroneous?

The claim that urbanisation will or is affecting our arable land is difficult to substantiate due to lack of baseline date on which one can make a well founded assertion.

Agricultural productivity depends on a multitude of factors the most important of which is the agricultural methodology used. Provision of fertilisers, hybrid seeds and enforcing policies on land consolidation for kitchen/backyard farms is a short term solution.

Revising our policies on genetically modified seeds (GMs) and sensitising the population on their negative side effects would be a long-term strategy that could change the “agricultural industry” in Rwanda.

The size of arable land is not the only factor that affects productivity. Switzerland is the smallest urbanised nation in Europe with the highest agricultural productivity per square kilometre.

If in Rwanda 80% of the population is producing 70% of the total export revenue per annum, we should be a middle-income country with the lowest unemployment rate. But our exports constitute raw materials of very low market value.

Investment in education of the masses, especially the 80% said to depend on agriculture, will transform our agricultural productivity, add value to our exports and transform rural economies. And this holds water for all banana economies in mother Africa.

At the end of it all, urbanisation is not a significant variable affecting agricultural productivity in Rwanda.

Daoud

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