Members of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment have kicked off a 10-day tour of the country to assess the state of agriculture as farmers prepare for the new planting season that began this month.
The MPs, who met officials at the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) yesterday, will be assessing how the Government’s efforts to boost agriculture are helping farmers, especially in the distribution of subsidised fertilisers and seeds as well as the preparation of marshlands for productive farming.
The committee chairperson, Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, told journalists after the meeting with MINAGRI officials that Rwandans need to maximise their land to achieve full food security.
“There are simple things that could be done to increase agricultural output. For instance, we don’t need to have any dormant land while people are struggling to get vegetables in areas like Kigali,” she said.
The MP said that the tour, which will take them to 18 districts across the country, will be an opportunity to sensitise local officials to be closer to farmers and help them improve their agricultural output.
“We will be looking at whether local officials are aware that they are in charge of looking after agriculture too. Some of them tend to think that they are in charge of people’s security and social welfare but agriculture is at the centre of all of that,” she said.
About 70 per cent of the Rwandan population are dependent on agriculture either through direct employment or other related jobs. The sector contributes 30 per cent to the country’s economy.
Under its agriculture subsidy scheme, commonly known as ‘Nkunganire’, the Government, through MINAGRI, will sponsor farmers who grow priority crops in the current planting season and help them acquire fertilisers at lower prices whereby they pay between 15 and 25 per cent of fertiliser costs.
Those to benefit from the subsidy in the current season include growers of maize, beans, wheat, soya, rice, Irish potatoes, cassava, banana, vegetables and fruits.
Govt pledges support
Agriculture minister Gerardine Mukeshimana told MPs at yesterday’s meeting that the Government will keep supporting farmers so they can become real agricultural entrepreneurs who practice farming as a profitable business.
“Farmers everywhere in the world need help. We will never stop supporting them and that’s why we constantly assess where there are acute challenges and address them,” she said.
She later told journalists that every farmer in the country needs to consider farming as a business and profit-generating activity that helps farmers cater for their day-to-day needs.
While the Government has had challenges in procurement of certain seeds needed for the planting season – with only about 50 per cent of the needed seeds of maize, wheat, and soy available by yesterday – the minister said the remaining seeds will be available in the country by the end of the month.
The current planting season kicked off in the mid-month and will end in the middle of next month, with farmers in region that got early rains this month already planting their seeds while those who will experience late rains will be able to sow their seeds from now until October 15.
A report of the state of agriculture efforts in the country to be put together by the legislators once they are done with their trip will be tabled in Parliament for consideration in line with the House’s duty to oversee government activities.