There can often be a disregard for the importance of agriculture in a nation’s development; however it is the foundation for all subsequent industry.
In terms of investment it is the best possible option; simply because people will never stop eating food.
It is simply a case of matching the needs of the market; in this respect an agricultural revolution has three aspects that should be in synch: Crop production, agro-processing and marketing.
In terms of legislation, an Enclosure act or Contiguous Zoning act is needed to enable bigger, more productive farms.
Right now Rwanda is a patchwork quilt of small holdings practising subsistence farming.
Finding a way to coordinate small-scale farming into a wider framework is mostly done through the cooperative system and cooperatives are the key to the success of this as they are involved in all three steps of; production, processing and marketing.
Rwanda cannot afford to instantly mechanise its agricultural sector, simply because it employs 90 percent of our population and they would lose work; the situation demands a gradual mechanisation in farming while urban sectors absorb those migrating from rural areas.
Formation of cooperatives is more productive and democratic than collectivisation but competition among cooperatives is essential in driving success.
Right now in Rwanda we are succeeding in increasing production but we are not using our full capacity; poor roads and lack of coordination means that the some farmers do not have instant access to the market, providing these farmers with access to the market will reduce prices, increase yield, as well as sensitive the farmers to the demands of the market.
It is in the sphere of processing, distributing and brand marketing that we lack western expertise, but there are a number of factors holding back potential agro-processing manufacturers.
Firstly, cheap imports set the price artificially low; items such as wheat, barley, maize flour, processed foods are relatively cheap compared to what it would cost to produce them here.
Secondly the polythene ban illustrates the double-standards local producers are up against; we import tonnes of goods in polythene bags like spaghetti, rice, teabags, biscuits and yet local producers are not allowed to package their goods in polythene plastic.
In order to add value to our agricultural goods we need to sort quality, process the goods into something more valuable, package the products in airtight durable wrapping and have standardised branding for these products.
Our strong currency also makes it hard for exporters to compete with weaker currencies like the Uganda or Tanzania shilling.
Agro-processing is about creating a standard of quality, assuring that quality, and constantly adding to that quality; when I buy a Coke anywhere in the world I know what I am getting because it is a standardised product.
Rwanda has great natural volcanic soils that do not need fertilizers if the soil is managed well and not depleted; the overall output is restricted by a number of factors.
Tillage – high-value cash crops demand intensive focussed labour, land management is another aspect of this, such as division of labour and resources.
Pest control – management of plant pests, insect pests, and microbial diseases are great areas to invest in because of the great need.
New organic methods accommodate and utilise the pests as opposed to eradicating them with toxic chemicals.
Nutrient management – use of organic fertilisers greatly enhances the value of a product; investing in ways to tap into this is profitable.
Water management - is the most important aspect of industrial farming because you no longer rely on the weather for profits; but irrigation and water management are very contentious and need community consensus.
The green revolution has begun and we need more private investment in the agriculture-industry; new hybrids and strains of crops now produce several times the yields of before.
We need develop agro-processing as the foundation of our industrial capacity; it will prosper us economically, protect our environment, increase food security, increase quality, increase safety and reduce poverty.