The private sector should scale up investment in modern farming to help increase food production and create a steady agriculture export base, President Paul Kagame has said.
The Head of State was speaking yesterday at the inauguration of a grain seed processing plant and modern storage facilities at Kigali Special Economic Zone (KSEZ) in Nyandungu Sector, Gasabo District.
The President observed that a new approach was needed if the country is to achieve a total transformation of the agriculture sector.
“Focus should shift to directly working with smallholding farmers across the country to add value to their agricultural practices through modern farming methods; that way, will be able to produce enough for domestic consumption and get surplus for markets,” he said.
Among the inaugurated facilities include a grain plant, warehouses, power tiller assembly plant as well as a fish collection, processing and distribution facility.
Kagame pointed out that there are available markets out there but one would only benefit from them if they used modern farming methods that would guarantee high yields consequently satisfying the demand.
He said improving agriculture remained a top government priority since transforming the sector would present an opportunity to further eradicate poverty.
The President hailed the investors in the new Agriculture Park saying the new facilities will serve as a vehicle to help achieve the country’s economic targets.
“Our country’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture since almost all Rwandans are engaged in agriculture, therefore modern farming techniques would have a huge impact on our economy,” the President noted.
Rwandans are aware of the benefits of modern farming but few translated that knowledge into action, Kagame said.
“Knowledge is very important but it’s not enough. From knowledge, we must get something tangible that impacts people’s lives and makes a difference.
“We can’t just feel proud of having knowledge and skills and at the end of the day we are not getting what we should be getting out of that, it doesn’t make sense.”
He added: “We must get something out of that knowledge. We have been saying the same thing time and again. For instance, in subsistence agriculture one can only harvest hundreds of kilogrammes of maize on one hectare but with modern farming, you can produce more than 10 tonnes on the same area.”
“Imagine from hundreds of kilogrammes to tonnes; what is lacking to realise this? Kagame wondered.
Pledging government’s support and saying that development partners were willing to lend a hand in this campaign, President Kagame challenged the private sector and Rwandans in general to work harder to develop themselves and country, with the ultimate goal of being self-reliant.
“The private sector should be an integral part of lifting Rwandans out of poverty. We shouldn’t remain in a situation of being recipients of aid, why can’t we strive to be the ones who provide assistance to others. We cannot afford slow progress, our circumstances demand that we move fast.”
The President emphasised that modern agriculture would not only help ensure food security but also help eradicate malnutrition and lift the people out of poverty.
The inaugurated agriculture facilities at KSEZ are part of a broader national blueprint to help revolutionalise the sector making it a major pillar for national development.
A storage facility, one of the components of the newly inaugurated Agriculture Park, includes a storeroom with capacity of 20,000 metric tonnes that can keep grain for a period of five years.
There is also a grain seed processing plant with a capacity to produce 10,000 tonnes of high quality seeds annually.
Dr Agnes Kalibata, the Agriculture Minister, said that Rwanda remained steadfast in its bid to ensure uninterrupted food security and food exports.
“We are committed to increasing production and modern agriculture will help us to achieve our goals,” she said.
In the 2013/14 budget, the agriculture sector received a whopping Rwf164 billion, equivalent to 10 per cent of the national cake.
Attended by business leaders, government officials and farmers, the event also attracted scientists and researchers from several countries who are in Kigali to attend a conference on agricultural research and extension.