Lack of enough funding, skilled researchers as well as motivation for the available researchers are the main issues that should be addressed to advance agriculture.
The remarks were made on Wednesday by the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana.
This year, MINAGRI and the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) developed a seed strategy to cease importing seeds and instead produce them locally.
The strategy also goes hand-in-hand with the research strategy designed this year in a bid to meet quality seeds demand and tackle crop diseases in the country.
The research strategy includes urgent matters related to plant breeding, plant pathology and soil health, which the minister said can be gradually addressed but after ‘putting researchers in the mood of delivery.’
Speaking to The New Times on Wednesday, Dr Claver Ngaboyisonga, a cereals researcher at RAB, said when research is not done, agriculture starts to experience many problems, including seed defects and emergence of new diseases.
“Particulary in this climate change period which results in new diseases, things change and there is a need to look for new seeds and mechanisms to prevent diseases,” Ngaboyisonga said.
“Research is the first element in agriculture and ,therefore, should be put first so that such issues are kept at bay.
Well-informed research would also help tackle diseases and pests from other countries,” he said
Meeting with MINAGRI officials to assess the performance of the agricultural sector last week, senators said there was need for advanced research to address the issue of shortage of improved seeds as well as controlling crop diseases so that farmers are ensured of good production for food security and exports.
Rwanda imports hybrid seeds, including maize, beans and soya.
Senator Evariste Bizimana asked, “Can’t we hire experts to train RAB workers such that we become self-reliant in terms of research?”
He cited the issue of expensive Irish potato seeds with a kilogramme going for Rwf600
“It is a big challenge for us to get funds needed for seeds, irrigation, fertiliser and research, but we try,” said Mukeshimana.
The Deputy Director General of RAB, Dr Daphrose Gahakwa, said, “In the previous years, researchers used to source funding by themselves and, in some cases, it did not match the government’s programmes. But the situation has changed, now research is a priority,” she noted.
Promotion of researchers
The other issue that Mukeshimana cited was that researchers expressed lack of motivation.
The minister also pointed to the issue of lack of skilled personnel. There is only one PhD, two masters, and five bachelor’s degree holders.
“I don’t think that if you add up those skills, they can avail the plant pathology that we need in the country,” she said.
The Government’s 7-year Programme (2010-17) states that seeds research will be developed and research findings disseminated down to farmers’ level so that use of quality seeds gows from 40 per cent to 100 per cent.