More research on agriculture and livestock should be expected from Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) under a new legislation.
The new law establishing RAB and determining its mission, organisation and functioning was passed last week by Parliament.
It is expected to make agriculture and livestock sector more productive.
Under the new law a special statute for researchers will be created and research stations empowered to perform effectively.
The law is specific on such aspects as extension services, which were not clear in the previous law.
The special statute governing public employees gives autonomy to the organisation in terms of hiring and firing staff, according to MP Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment.
“A [normal] public servant might be appraised regularly but research, for instance on maize crop, might take about 10 years for the results to be seen. The new status enables them to conduct independent research, submit research projects for approval and work with research centres elsewhere,” Nyirarukundo said.
The lawmaker observed that over the past decade research quality has been declining at RAB’s research stations in the country.
Research, she said, should seek solutions to shortage of quality seeds in the agriculture and livestock sector, and help address crop and animal diseases.
There has been an issue of old and diseased crops in some situations, among other issues, she said.
RAB has 23 roles evolving around promoting agriculture and livestock, advanced techniques in produce multiplication, extension services, devising new technologies, and research as a key element to achieving agriculture and livestock targets.
With extension services taking up 70 per cent of funds reserved for RAB’s agriculture and livestock activities, and only 30 per cent going into research, lawmakers said that research aspect was not being given the attention it deserved.
Extension services involve multiplying and making accessible to farmers new research findings such as on improved and highly productive seed varieties or livestock species.
MP Nyirarukundo said that given the importance of research in the sector’s development, there was a proposal to increase funding ratio for extension and research but the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources suggested that research and extension remain equally financed (with each having 50 per cent).
MPs expressed concerns that agriculture was given more attention than livestock, yet the latter also can considerably contribute to the country’s economic growth.
However, they argued that though agriculture was given more attention than livestock, its performance was wanting, wondering what will happen if livestock received more funding from the same budget that is allocated to farming.
In the 2015/2016 national budget, agriculture was allocated some Rwf120.6 billion.
Nyirarukundo noted that agriculture and livestock sector can get more funding from the national budget provided that they prove beneficial to Rwandans’ livelihoods and the economy.
With the new law, RAB could consider increasing its branches in various parts of the country.
MP Juliana Kantengwa stressed the need for evidence-based policies through research, and more extension services.
RAB was established in 2010 as a result of the merger of three institutions that were responsible for advancement of agriculture and livestock, namely; the Rwanda Agricultural Research Institute (ISAR), Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), and Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA).
Agriculture contributes about 33 per cent to the country’s GDP.
Under the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda Phase III (PSTA III), government targets agriculture growth rate of at 8.5 per cent by 2017/2018 from 5.5 per cent in 2015.
But this calls for commercial agriculture.
Agriculture grew by only one per cent in the third quarter of 2016, according to a report by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) released early January, 2017.