Farmers and other Rwandans should always be involved in the national budget process to make it more participatory, the local civil society groups have said.
Jean Leonard Sekanyange, the chairperson of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, said recent research shows that ordinary people are not consulted during the budget making process, adding this has meant that local and national budgets do not address needs of the grassroots.
“Research done in eight districts of the country indicate that decision-makers do not involve farmers to give their views on what they want the budget to prioritise in agriculture sector,” Sekanyange said.
The survey titled, “Strengthening civil society organisations in promoting sustainable agriculture policies and citizens participatory budgeting in Rwanda” sought to measure the level of citizen engagement in the budget-making process. It was done in selected districts from Western, Northern and Southern provinces.
Sekanyange reiterated the importance of involving farmers and other Rwandans in the budget-making process, saying this will make it easy for them to properly-monitor public revenue and expenditure.
He urged the government and local leaders to sensitise the masses about budget issues and make the process more participatory to ensure accountability and service delivery.
Over 72 per cent of the Rwandan population is employed in the agriculture sector. The sector also accounts for more than 33 per cent of the national growth domestic product (GDP).
Sekanyange was speaking during a dialogue that brought together civil society groups and development NGOs, as well as officials from the Agriculture Ministry and Action Aid Rwanda. The dialogue was aimed at promoting sustainable agriculture policies and citizen participation in budget-making process.
Speaking at the event, Fulgence Nsengiyumva, the State Minister for Agriculture, said though national budgetary allocation for agriculture budget is not enough, government is looking for ways to solve challenges facing farmers.
He commended the Rwanda civil society for using data-based evidence to call for more funding for the sector. He added that the research would enable government and the ministry to make the necessary interventions that will help develop the agriculture sector and spur production.
Farmers speak out
Stephanie Mukantwari, a cassava farmer in Murundi sector, Karongi District, told The New Times that participating in budget-making process will help policy-makers to know firsthand the needs and challenges of sector players.
This, she added, is important to guide policy, including budget. She added that farmers do not have similar needs or challenges.
“Whereas some farmers in different districts get seeds and fertilisers on time, others don’t. Besides, some parts of the country are drought prone while others receive good rains. Therefore, the budget-makers need to understand these divergent needs and challenges we face as farmers. We need to be involved in the process for them to fully understand these issues,” Mukantwari said.
Mukantwari said the biggest challenge facing farmers is getting seed and fertilisers timely. She added that the effects of climate change are also hurting the sector, leading to poor production and reduced incomes for farmers.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning allocated about Rwf11.5 billion for seeds and fertilisers in 2017/2018 fiscal year budget.
The government provides subsidy for farmers to acquire small irrigation equipment as part of efforts geared at encouraging crop irrigation and modern farming practices and help enhance production.
Agriculture grew by 8 per cent during the third quarter of last year, an increase from one per cent in Q1.