Rwf260 billion earmarked for research in agric transformation

Agriculture performance and food security are expected to improve further, thanks to a new Rwf260 billion agriculture transformation scheme.
Dr Semwaga speaks at the workshop in Kigali yesterday. (Photos by Timothy Kisambira)
Dr Semwaga speaks at the workshop in Kigali yesterday. (Photos by Timothy Kisambira)

Agriculture performance and food security are expected to improve further, thanks to a new Rwf260 billion agriculture transformation scheme.

The plan, which runs from 2018 to 2023, will also take into account inclusive employment, enhancement of farmers’ skills, enabling environment and responsive institutions, with view to fast-tracking the achievement of zero-hunger goal in Rwanda.

Speaking at a consultative workshop on the new plan in Kigali yesterday, Dr Octave Semwaga, the director-general of strategic planning and programmes coordination at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), said research under the third Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture (PSTA), which is nearing a close, was not a major component due to inadequate funding.

Semwaga said the new drive includes many new aspects such as supporting farmers to get standards certification for their crops to be competitive at the market, as well as quality seeds that can resist diseases and climate change.

The president of Rwanda Cassava Cooperatives Federation, Martin Harerimana, recently told The New Times that research and technology should be prioritised to address issues of crop diseases that have been wrecking farmers’ investments and threatening food security.

Harerimana said cassava is grown on over 100,000 hectares of farmland countrywide, but the outbreak of Cassava Brown Streak Disease in 2012/13, destroyed the crop, leaving farmers struggling to get cassava stems that are resistant to the disease.

“We need the institution responsible for agriculture development to carry out research to avail various cassava varieties that farmers can try and choose one to grow based on productivity. With availability of varieties, farmers will have options when one is affected by disease or pest,” he said.

Yesterday’s workshop was the second private sector consultation on PSTA IV.

It was held in partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Private Sector Driven Agriculture Growth project, the Private Sector Federation’s Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) through the Rwanda Public Private Dialogue (RPPD) mechanism.

Most of the key recommendations made by local producers and agri-businesses on June 2 were incorporated in the test policy document.

Some of the issues that were addressed include placing more emphasis on research and skills development, addressing the effects of climate change through the use of technology like irrigation, and establishing improved communication channels between Government, producers and businesses.

Christine Murebwayire, the chairperson of the PSF Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock, said it is important that more attention is given to research as it will enhance agricultural and livestock productivity.

“There is a mismatch between agriculture performance and research in Rwanda. We realised that research is the first element that would help us get quality seeds and livestock and fish breeds, and, as a result, be able to compete at the international market,” she said.

Melanie Bittle, the chief of party for Private Sector Driven Agricultural Growth programme, a five-year project funded by USAID, said their focus  is to ensure that farmers have access to new technologies and seeds.

“One of the new things that they have focused on under this policy is to ensure that there is communication going on between MINAGRI and the farmers. They are opening up different avenues so the farmers can get feedback when they don’t have access to the right type of seeds, fertiliser, or technology,” she said. 

The new strategic plan aims to further advance the Government of Rwanda’s goal of achieving an annual growth rate of at least 8.5 per cent in agriculture sector, from about 5 per cent in 2016, MINAGRI says.

 editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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