The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources has unveiled a new initiative aimed at addressing the challenges faced by farmers. Under the initiative, the ministry will partner with universities in research to help find solutions to the sector’s problems, Fulgence Nsengiyumva, the State Minister in charge of agriculture, has said.
According to the minister, universities and other higher learning institutions should be at the forefront of efforts geared at addressing problems in the sector.
Nsengiyumva said: “Universities should not wait for the ministry to undertake research on a problem specific to a given area or district where there are universities. That’s your job.
“In fact, we are going to form partnerships with universities so that they conduct research on our behalf,” he said.
He added that the nature of research will depend on agreements signed between the two parties – the ministry and universities.
The minister was addressing University of Kibungo (UNIK) students and staff as part of an initiative, where the ministry seeks to create partnerships with agriculture universities to find solutions for challenges in the agricultural sector.
He explained that the ministry is sometimes occupied by a lot of issues, like responding to emergencies such as prolonged drought or pest and disease outbreaks, leaving it with little time to conduct research.
The visit to UNIK by Nsengiyumva is part of nationwide campaign where the ministry is encouraging agricultural institutions to support its efforts and find solutions for sector challenges.
He revealed that the ministry will appoint an expert to coordinate universities in the area of research “to ensure that the initiative achieves its objective.”
“We, therefore, call upon students and staff at UNIK to direct energies and funds toward addressing sector problems, especially those that are specific to Kibungo and the surrounding areas,” he said in Eastern Province-based university.
The minister, applauded agriculture universities for their contribution to the sector, saying that human capital development is essential for the sector to grow and become competitive.
The minister added that government will continue to facilitate agriculture institutions to help them realise their objectives and those that contribute to national development.
Universities welcome the initiative
Speaking at the function, Prof Egide Karuranga, the UNIK vice-chancellor, welcomed the move, saying that the university is ready to take up any assignment from the ministry.
This, he added, will enable students to acquire practical skills.
He added that the university has been carrying out research, but not necessarily in the line of the ministry’s.
“The new initiative needs to attract a lot of support from other universities for it to be successful,” he said.
Prof Karuranga said the institution is involved in making seeds and plantlets, adding that it is currently conducting a study on best way farmers can utilise the hilly landscape in Ngoma District.
He said they are trying to find the best way farmers can install irrigation systems in the area to ease crop irrigation and boost production.
In addition, the university has also secured agriculture mechanisation equipment for cultivation on the university farms, as well as to use for practicals by students, and also for renting out to the communities.
Students and staff at UNIK pledged to encourage communities to embrace irrigation and use quality seeds. The government is promoting crop irrigation to discourage reliance on rain-fed agriculture to ensure sustainable production.
Already, the government has subsidised small irrigation equipment by 50 per cent to make them more affordable for rural farmers. Experts say public-private partnerships are essential if the country is to improve the agriculture sector, boost production and household incomes.
The agriculture sector employs over 72 per cent of the Rwandan population.
The sector is the second biggest contributor to the country’s GDP, according to figures from National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda.