Washington DC - Rwanda has been singled out as one of the African countries prioritising investment in agriculture to boost production leading to food security and increased productivity in the sector.
The announcement was made on Friday during a forum of experts dubbed ‘Put Food First’, which discussed the global food crisis in the ongoing spring meetings of the World Bank.. The meeting was organised by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The experts hailed Rwanda’s modern farming practices including the construction of terraces in the country that have led to improved agricultural productivity.
The country’s efforts in reducing post harvest losses and investing in irrigation were commended as part of wider efforts that should be adopted globally to boost agricultural productivity and reduce food insecurity.
“Currently, there is a lot of focus on the international monetary system, fiscal issues in developed countries and unemployment, but food is fundamental; it hits the most vulnerable and that is why food should be put first because we believe it is important,” Ngozi Okonjo Iweala , the Managing Director of the World Bank said.
According to the World Bank, food prices have soared by 20 percent in the last one year. “Poor families spend about 50 percent of income on food and with these high volatile food prices that were observed today, it means that each day an extra number of families are drawn into poverty;” Ngozi said, adding that currently, approximately 44 million people have fallen into extreme poverty,
living on less than $1.25 a day, as a result of food prices rising by 36 percent over the past year.
Specifically prices of food such as wheat, rice and maize have increased by 79 percent, 17 percent and 73 percent respectively.
Experts blamed high food prices on instability, speculation on agricultural commodities and lack of investment in agriculture and increasing fuel prices.
“There is a direct correlation between food prices and price of oil; when the price of oil goes up, we know the food prices will go up because of transportation and also imports.” Josette Sheeran, the Head of World Food Programme observed.
Experts noted that increasing investment to improve agriculture productivity, improving the state of infrastructure by increasing access to better roads , water and using new technology to help farmers connect to markets will be key to mitigating the impact of the food crisis.
In a parallel interview, Agriculture Minister, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, observed that though Rwanda would be affected by the global increase in food prices, the situation was not alarming as the country is largely food secure.
“We will be worried about food prices for commodities that we import, specifically rice and wheat, which are affected by global prices, but it is not a big problem,” she said.
“We are doing well- most farmers have access to food. Even last year when we had a drought, we have food reserves that farmers could fall back to .
We are more prepared to deal with food problems and because of investments we have made both at the household and at the national level,” she said.
Kalibata said the government would continue investing in agriculture specifically by increasing investment in irrigation and setting up storage facilities.
The panel of experts also included Gavin Maguire, the Agriculture Markets Columnist, Thomson Reuters, Calestous Juma a professor and author from Harvard Kennedy School and Abdolreza Abbassian, a grain analyst from Food and Agriculture Organisation.