Rwanda has set a new research strategy that will improve agriculture production in 2018, and enhance the country’s resilience to climate change.
While addressing both chambers of parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr. Edouard Ngirente said that in order to improve research work in agro production, Rwanda plans to build more research centers and relax taxation on importation of research equipment entering the country.
This decision comes following shortage of food production in the country as a result of unexpected shortage of rains in 2017. Last year Rwanda witnessed an increase in prices of agro products due to drought in some parts of the country.
However, despite all the uncertainties, the country managed to register 39% growth in agriculture and livestock exports.
Exports earned the country $428 million compared to $262 in 2015 from products like coffee, tea, vegetables and fruits; flowers and pyrethrum among others.
The highest increase in value of exports was seen in seeds, flours (77%) – from $20,411,184 to $87,172,160 while vegetables and fruits accounted for 65% – from $6,446,418 to $18,526,677 in the same period of 2017 compared to 2015.
To maintain the performance of the agriculture sector and address concerns of farmers’ access to markets, Prime Minister Ngirente told parliament that Rwanda will focus on research, farmer capacity building, among others.
The whole last year, agriculture came in as the second contributor to Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – accounting for 31% with a 7 percent growth rate after the Services sector (46%) which also had an 8% growth.
Rwanda faced harsh economic times during the 2017 harvest period but quickly recovered in season B and C and was backed up with an increase in food processing by about 16%.
Agriculture remains the highest source of employment employing over 80 percenta of the country’s 12 million population. 65.8% (5,084,011) of Rwandans were directly employed in agro activities in 2017, of which 1,360,562 of them were employed by the existing 8,829 cooperatives.
Members of both chambers of parliament asked the Premier to facilitate farmers in soliciting markets, access to flexible loans and security for their produce throughout the pre and post- harvest periods which are currently affected by unpredictable rain patterns and changes in land policies.
“We have field visit reports of some of the processing plants in the countryside that don’t buy farmers’ produce yet there are plants constructed for this purpose and when we inquired why, we were told that the produce doesn’t meet the standards” said Lawmaker Theoneste Safari Begumisa.
Parliament’s concern comes after reports that the community based industries locally known as ‘Uruganda Iwacu’ program has not kicked off effectively despite an increase in innovation and creativity in the agro processing sector by 4000 youths in agro-procession business who have benefited from a skills re-training.
In response, PM Ngirente said it was an issue of planning and management but also follow up on implementation of fore signing of agreement of supply between farmers and entrepreneurs could have been neglected.
“There is need to educate and train farmers on post-harvest management so that they don’t lose markets.” The Prime Minister emphasized that follow up on implementation of fore signing of agreement of supply is key.
The Minister of Agriculture, Geraldine Mukeshimana told parliament that the issue of climate change that has affected farmers will be addressed by structuring a holistic and realistic approach to the harvest insurance policy.
“We shall now insure farmers basing on the targeted harvest because it is true that when it rains, different parts of the country may not be affected the same way,” Mukeshimana said.
Top on agenda, Rwanda also plans to increase on its budget support to the agricultural sector to meet the Maputo and Malabo declarations- which require 10% of budget on agriculture.
So far Rwanda has been able to meet a 7 percent increase in budget (from 5 percent) in the last ten years; making Rwanda one of the top Africa implementer of requirements in the treaties.