Members of the Senatorial Standing Committee on Economic Development and Finance have embarked on an outreach tour that is intended to monitor and assess the performance of the agriculture sector in the country.
The assessment based on the benchmarks outlined in government’s current seven year programme.
The programme, running from 2010 through 2017, aims at ravitalising the country’s development in all aspects including governance, justice, economy and social well-being.
“You realise that we only have one year to go; we want to assess the progress of the sector and to ascertain whether the set targets have been met or at least how far the implementation has gone,” said Jacqueline Muhongayire.
The members of the committee started the exercise on Monday by meeting officials at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources to get the overall picture of agriculture sector performance.
Muhongayire said they will tour all the 30 districts, an exercise she said will be concluded in December.
The programmes to be assessed include; land use consolidation, mainstreaming research that responds to the problems that people face in agriculture, extension services, seeds and fertiliser distribution, and post-harvest handling.
Muhongayire noted that they will meet and interact with district leaders, land officers, planning officers, heads of farmers’ cooperatives and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
“We have got information about the current state of the sector, the challenges facing it and the strategies that the ministry has put in place to address the challenges,” she said.
“We will use our observations from our interface with farmers and the information we got at the policy level to look for ways that will help farmers attain better yield, especially since this sector has a big stake in the country’s economy,” she said.
The MP said agriculture is a major sector that has a great impact on the livelihoods of Rwandans, and therefore, needs much attention.
“Many of Rwandans fall within this sector, which accounts for about 33% of the country’s GDP and the majority of the country’s exports - about 70% - are generated from agriculture and livestock,” she said.
While presenting the sector status report to the legislators, Octave Semwaga, the Director of Strategic Planning and Programme Coordinator at the ministry, said that about 41% of farmers now use improved seeds, against the set target of 100 per cent by 2017.
Land use consolidation is at 819,803 hectares against the target of 981,453 by 2016-2017, which is 86.7% achieved, while the irrigation target was surpassed as the irrigated area stands at 44,330ha against the target of 40,000ha.
Agriculture mechanisation is currently practiced at 19.2% while the target is 25 per cent.
However, fisheries target is far from being achieved on time as 28,450 tonnes of fish are currently produced, representing 25% of the target of (112,000 tonnes) by 2017.
Semwaga said that more private sector involvement was needed to ensure the sector is professionalised for better output.
He noted low participation of private sector in agriculture value chain, citing agro-processing and horticulture.
He said that more efforts are needed in research, which he insisted plays a central role in agricultural development, for instance, in disease control and variety releasing.
“Limited resilience to unpredictable impacts of climate change and variability, price volatility of exported agricultural products, and increase in costs of agricultural inputs because we import fertilisers and have no control about their prices are affecting the agriculture sector,” he noted.
Talking about the contribution of agriculture to the country’s economy, Semwaga cited a report by the National Institute of Statistics (NISR) of 2015-16 put agriculture output to Rwf1.512 billion representing about 30% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that was Rwf5,011 billion in 2015-16.
The Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda Phase III (PSTA III), which aims to intensify and commercialise agriculture, targets to attain an annual agricultural growth of 8.5%, annual export growth of 28% and 40% of land under modern agriculture.
This is expected to contribute toward the country’s middle-income status goal with per capita GDP of $1240 by 2020 from $220 in 2000.
Semwaga said that currently, agriculture growth is at 5.5%. PSTA III is a five-year programme devised by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2013. Under PSTA III, growth will be driven by continued investment in land husbandry, irrigation and inputs, expanding CIP to further increase the productivity of staple crops, as stated in the strategy.