Rwanda Climate Change and Development Network (RCCDN) has released a report highlighting a need to increase use of organic fertilizers as part of reconciling activities in the national agriculture and climate change responsiveness policies.
The report, “National agriculture policy in line with the national environment and climate change policy framework” aimed at analysing Rwanda agriculture policy to identify mismatch and gaps in relation to the environment and climate change policy and formulate recommendations toward better harmonization and integration.
In this context, the gaps being identified are in relation to what is highlighted by the environment and climate change policy related to agriculture and not mainstreamed in the agriculture policy and strategies.
The report was released today during a virtual meeting in Kigali to discuss the gaps and way forward on findings collected by Dr. John Musemakweri, a consultant who was tasked to identify the gaps in both policies.
The specific objectives of the analysis were to identify incoherences between agriculture, and environment and climate change policies, to identify the key risks if there are incoherences between two policies and to come up with recommendations to mitigate the potential risks identified.
The report showed that though both policies are well formulated and communicate with each other there are still gaps in implementing agriculture initiatives and mitigating climate change in terms of responsiveness.
The report showed low uptake of use of organic fertilizers and an increased use of more chemical fertilizers, a direction which can affect productivity and impact negatively on climate change.
For example, it is said that although the national agriculture policy (NAP) talks about fertilizers, it avoids being specific on inorganic chemical fertilizers, but rather talks a lot about organic fertilizers and residue use and compost.
Although the application of inorganic fertilizers can bring marked increases in crop production in the short term, the report showed farmers lacking proper management of soil organic matter to reduce and reverse soil degradation and soil fertility loss.
All this according to researchers shows a clear gap in both policies for their failure to give direction on the use of inorganic chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
“The value of greenhouse gases (GHG) generated from the fertilizer imports since 2000 are estimated to have cumulatively reached 2.67 million tones of CO2 by the end of the 2013 farming seasons (REMA, 2016). In the face of such a situation, it is expected that both policies talk to this challenge and neither policy does,” the report said.
The impact here is evidenced in the third Rwanda national communication report on climate change which shows that agriculture produces most greenhouse gases emissions accounting for 70.4 percent of the total national emissions.
The emissions from agriculture are dominated by urea fertilizers application and enteric fermentation, the report says.
Faustin Vuningoma, the RCCDN coordinator said it is important for government and private sector to plan systematic phasing out of use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture by producing organic ones locally in Rwanda.
“It’s not possible to eliminate chemical fertilizers all of a sudden but we want a plan to phase them out and this requires investing in organic fertilizers manufacturing to make agriculture environmental and climate change responsive,” Vuningoma said.
The other common risk of inorganic fertilizer use is soil and water contamination. Excessive applications of synthetic nutrients can accumulate in and acidify soils, and / or as runoff of the excess nutrients accumulate in water bodies such as rivers and lakes and reach groundwater.
Albert Mutasa, the Country Manager to Rwanda- Vi Agroforestry said there is no information on impact of using inorganic fertilizers and Rwanda needs to do an extensive, focused research to understand and classify the types of chemical fertilizers that farmers can or do not use.
Andre Gatate, the environment expert in the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI)- said that replacing chemical fertilizers with organic is a long process but a research underway is studying how to combine use of both types.
“We want to see how we can reduce chemical fertilizers but with soil type in Rwanda it is not possible to only use organic, thus for the benefit of climate change response it is recommended we use both,” Gatete said.
As a donor partner, Marleen Masclee, the Country Director Trocaire Rwanda said they will support the outcomes of the report and strengthen Rwanda’s vision in climate change responsiveness.
“Rwanda is a good country to work with. We rest open for any support needed in policy alignment and implementation for the benefit of people we serve,” said Masclee