The Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources has been tasked to ensure that all designated farming land is put into use and ensure that it stops losing arable soil within the next few months.
This was one of the resolutions by parliament on October 10, after a parliamentary committee showed inadequate utilization of terraced land and soil erosion which have negatively affected the agriculture sector.
The committee on land, agriculture, livestock and environment report showed that several districts had constructed terraces but they are few and many of them remain unused (partly because the soil is acidic), while others are old and yet some of the residents who worked on them have not been paid.
Agriculture Minister, Dr. Ildephonse Musafiri said that the ministry has taken a resolution to have all unused farming land put to use despite the fact that some owners living in the city have abandoned their land.
“All terraced land and government or private land has to be put into use starting with this year and with the planting season. We don’t want to take away people’s land but the directive is already out and needs compliance,” Musafiri said.
The ministry revealed that arable land is at 1.4million hectares and at least 95% of it is supposed to have terraces and trenches and so far Rwanda has reached 1million of these.
On average, the minister said the government spends a budget of Rwf3.5million on constructing one hectare.
The minister noted that those who don’t comply with the new directive will have their land given to other citizens to plant seasonal crops instead of wasting the land.
On the issue of few terraces, the minister said that it is a budget related constraint even when the government (and development partners) has invested heavily in the program.
He highlighted new figures indicating that the area with potential for radical terracing is estimated at 265,000 hectares and the ministry planned to cover 142,000 hectares by 2024 under the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) and as of June 2023, about 139,000 hectares of radical terraces have been constructed.
“As we get more funding we expect to increase the terraces, and plan to work with partners but we are moving at the pace of the country’s capacity however with partner’s funding we will reach these targets,” Musafiri said.
The report also showed that some citizens have not been compensated in areas where terrace works were constructed or damaged their farmer’s land, especially in Rwamagana district (in Gahengeri sector).
However, the minister of agriculture said that these citizens have never been listed for expropriation since the terraces were done without touching their land.
On the issue of unpaid terraces labor, the minister said that they have taken a new resolve to ensure this doesn’t happen.
“The resolution is to have no contractor paid unless they have paid workers. This is something to apologize for but before the contractors get paid, we will have to assess if the labor done is paid for” Musafiri said.
Rwandan Soil eroded to Egypt
The committee report also showed underlying issues of farmers failing to grow crops on land due to increased soil erosion and claim some areas are acidic and they have no expertise to address this challenge that also impacts on productivity and food security.
The State of Soil Erosion Control in Rwanda May 2022 report, more than 745,000 hectares of agricultural land in Rwanda are potentially eroded every year.
The report revealed that over 3 million tonnes of crop produce are estimated to be lost seasonally due to severe erosion, including 22,000 tonnes of maize and 15,000 tonnes of beans.
Musafiri said that the immediate plans are planting trees (mixture) and encouraging farmers to plant crops that hold soil and secondly, trying out conservation agriculture approach since 2020 (which is environmental friendly) for weak soil layers.
“So far we have 413 demonstration plots and we plan to have them in all sectors by the end of the year,” he said.
“The plan is to have a soil acidity plan by next year and look for a budget depending on the need basis. We never had the map but by March (2024) we will have it to help us address this issue,” he stated.
MPs submitted 16 queries on the response given by the minister saying that there is a lack of follow up on the terracing projects and soil erosion.
“The problem is in the analysis of these projects, to ask ourselves the progress and also follow up on farmers because they don’t know much about terraces,” MP Ndagijimana said.