Strong performance of agricultural sector in 2010 that saw the sector expand by 8.2 percent in the first half of last year is expected to boost food security around the country this year.
This good performance, according to the Central Bank was a result of strong performance in cereals, roots and tubers which increased by 18.7 percent and 18.8 percent respectively.
The sector has benefited from large government investments in fertilizers, improved seeds and extension services.
In the past 3 years, the consolidated use of land area under maize, wheat and beans alone increased from 28,788 hectares to 254,000 hectares in 2010.
“When we started land consolidation in 2007, about 20 districts were food insecure but currently 70 percent of target districts are food secure,” Agnes Kalibata, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources recently reported during the National Dialogue.
Kalibata said that land consolidation boosted the sector with 46 percent of the land being consolidated from two percent in 2007.
Additionally, the national average fertilizer use has increased from 4 kg, per hectare in 2006 to 24 kg/ha in 2010.
Reflecting on 2010, the Minister cited Girinka (One cow – per poor household) program, irrigation and land husbandry as key successful programs.
The Girinka program, now targets about 350, 000 poor families across the country of whom 92,000 have already received a cow.
Kalibata said government secured $50m for land husbandry including water harvesting, irrigation and post harvest storage.
The Ministry is targeting 100 hectares to be irrigated by 2017, and a campaign is intended to encourage household irrigation as well as mind set on land consolidation. 144 ponds have been constructed in 8 districts of the Southern and Eastern provinces.
“We call the irrigation project a success with six dams completed and increasing more irrigable land,” Kalibata said.
The area of land protected against erosion has increased by 25 percent since 2007 to more than 60 percent which is in line with the EDPRS target of 100 percent protection against soil erosion.
The Ministry of Agriculture says it working with the private sector to increase distribution of fertilizers, in addition to encouraging farmers to group themselves in cooperatives, a move which will help famers secure contract farming.
To avoid theft of the fertilizers which was rampant in the past, the Ministry says vouchers will be given to each farmer by a service provider in each district, detailing the kilos supposed to be applied on a patch of land.
Kalibata said, currently government has 43 percent of storage capacity and it intends to construct modern storage facilities with capacity to store 45,000 tonnes.
Government intends to build post harvest storage facility for every 100hectares.
“The objective is to reduce post harvest looses and increase marketability for tradable products,” Kalibata said.
Last year over Rwf13 billion was spent to procure fertilizers and seeds buying 30,000 Metric tonnes of fertilizers utilized on priority crops resulting into substantial increased self-sufficiency in food production.
Government has embarked on increasing milk production where by dairy farmers will get technical support to improve milk production and maintain consistent quality from RARDA and Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA).
Government promised to establish 70 milk collection centers that will boost the incomes of dairy farmers through access to market and value addition to dairy products.
Milk production is also expected to be enhanced through GIRINKA Program and this has been supplemented with construction of milk collection centers and provision of enhanced veterinary services.
Bridging the rice deficit
Government has indentified 35,000 hectares of marshlands for rice production to increase the crop's yield and counter the heavy import bill, the Agriculture Minister said.
"With 35,000 hectares up from 12,000 hectares of rice production, we will be able to meet our demand, it's a breakeven," said Kalibata recently.
Domestic rice output reached 246, 372 tonnes last year, 54,795 tonnes less than the market demand of 301,167 tonnes. The country relies on imports to cover the deficit.
The target is to have 40,000 hectares under rice cultivation by 2020.