The poor state of rural roads and lack of storage facilities are threatening the country’s food security. Experts say this calls for more money to be injected into rural infrastructure development.
“Feeder roads are essential to ensure food security and rural development; that’s why focus should be on improving rural infrastructure to ease access to markets,” said Dr. Elias Twagira, the chief executive officer of ASTRIK International, a consultancy firm.
According to Twagira, rapid population growth has exerted pressure on food security, and “rural infrastructure is still poor”.
Twagira was speaking during the national engineers’ conference in Kigali last week.
The two-day conference was organised under the theme “Sustainable development in Rwanda”. It sought to enhance the role of engineers in the development of sustainable infrastructure.
Rural infrastructure development is a key component of this year’s budget.
Innocent Nzeyimana, the in charge of irrigation and mechanisation at the Ministry of Agriculture, said many farmers still carry produce on their heads to the market because of impassable roads.
“Others can’t even access markets and storage facilities, calling for the construction of roads and storage facilities,” Nzeyimana said.
He added that affordable irrigation and farming equipment should be made readily available to enhance crop output.
He noted that poor farming methods were compromising food security in Rwanda and across the region, generally. Nzeyimana said though the government is in control of the food situation, more needed to be done to ensure rural farmers access markets.
“Agriculture produce will not get to those who need it unless the roads in rural areas are improved. Besides, modern infrastructure does not only support food security efforts, but also encourages entrepreneurs to set up processing plants in rural areas, which creates jobs and reduces the cost of business in the long-run,” he argued.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Infrastructure, 75 per cent of Rwanda’s roads are in good condition, leaving 25 per cent in bad state; with a largest percentage of these being in the rural areas.
The country’s road density currently stands at 5.3km per square kilometre with a road network of about 14,000km.
Tony Nsanganira, the Agriculture State Minister, said the government has so far built storage facilities that can hold over 170,000 metric tonnes of produce, while over 30,000 hectares of land are under irrigation. He added that about 15 per cent of medium and large scale farmers practice mechanised agriculture.
“The agriculture sector contributes 35 per cent to the country’s GDP and employs over 70 per cent of the population; so it is essential to support it if we are to achieve sustainable development,” Nsanganira said.
Meanwhile, regional governments are going to meet this week in Kampala, Uganda to discuss issues on food security and fair trade across the EAC bloc.
The meeting organised under the theme “EAC: My Home, My Business,” will focus on food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation competitiveness and access to affordable finance.