The government has adopted a plan to significantly step up the construction and rehabilitation of feeder roads connecting farmers to production centres and markets to fast-track development.
The policy was approved by Cabinet last week.
The idea is to scale up construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of several feeder roads seen as key to linking farmers to production areas and to help government deliver on its development blueprint.
The roads will be accessible in a range of two kilometers from agriculture and livestock production areas, according to officials.
Addressing a news conference in Kigali on Monday, the state minister in charge of Transport, Alex Nzahabwanimana, said such issues as maintenance necessitated the formulation of a new policy on feeder roads.
“From the past seven years of building new roads, we identified some recurrent issues that required a policy to ease intra-country trade and transport of goods and people via sustainable feeder roads,” he said.
“Some of the issues are about coordination among different institutions in rehabilitating roads. Others include budgetary constraints that still undermine efforts to improve access to feeder roads across the country,” he added.
In March, the Government of Rwanda signed a financing agreement with Japan worth about Rwf16 billion to support irrigation farming in Rwamagana District, and part of it will go into the rehabilitation of a 15-kilometre feeder roads network.
The minister said, under the new policy, feeder roads will be extended to many hard-to-reach places in rural areas to ease transportation of food and livestock products.
“Previously, there was a law allocating different responsibilities to various institutions but there was lack of coordination and maintenance of existing roads,” Nzahabwanimana said.
The new policy lays out clear guidelines on maintenance of feeder roads, he said.
It provides for urgent repair of feeder roads before they become impassable.
The new policy should bring benefits such as jobs in roads construction and maintenance as well as reduce time wasted on travelling on feeder roads from 30km/hr to 60-80km/hr, he said.
“Construction and maintenance must go hand along with the labour component. Increased emphasis on maintenance means more jobs for the locals,” he said.
Feeder roads are normally implemented and managed by districts, but under the new policy other public institutions will also get involved.
Nzahabwanimana talked of the need for more financing for roads construction.
The Ministry of Agriculture targets to construct over 2,550 kilometres of feeder roads network across the country.
Under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (2013-2018), the target is 510 kilometres annually.
This, officials say, would enhance farmers’ access to markets and reduce post-harvest losses.
The Feeder Roads Development Project (FRDP) strategic investment project, initiated in 2014 and will last until 2021, seeks to rehabilitate, upgrade and maintain feeder roads.
The project is backed by the World Bank, USAID, Europe Union, the Netherlands, African Development Bank, and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The Agriculture ministry says that so far, 1,533 kilometre feeder roads have been rehabilitated, upgraded or maintained under the project.
This represents about 60 per cent of the EDPRS II target in this aspect.