Agriculture in Rwanda: Ownership, Partnerships and Improving Delivery

Posted on 29 November 2011 by admin

Agnes Matilda Kalibata (PhD)

Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Republic of Rwanda 

As the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, commences, Rwanda has a chance to convey its way of doing business in an ever-changing aid architecture. The meeting centres on the Paris Declaration, a tool for donors and developing countries to hold each other to account.

Minister Kalibata. Credit: Jon Amira/IFAD

In Busan, a large and increasingly mixed community of development stakeholders will look back while seeking to outline the future of aid. Rwanda’s experiences are particularly valid for discussion in Busan. Rwanda’s story of aid effectiveness is one of strong leadership and meeting the challenges faced in managing developmental assistance.

President Paul Kagame’s lead, vision and ownership have allowed Rwanda to stay focused. In the agriculture sector, over the past four years, Rwanda has received strong support both from aid multilaterals and bilateral. Emerging countries such as India and Brazil have begun to provide public and importantly private sector investment in the country, to new cross-cutting funds such as those for Climate Change.

The years have been characterised by turning these investments and support into food security and poverty reduction for Rwandans. Rwanda has moved from a food insecure country with 20 out of the 30 districts, labelled food insecure by FAO standards, to a food secure nation with no single district below the required food needs.

In August 2007, Rwanda initiated the Crop Intensification Programme to increase both the levels of production and productivity amidst the various challenges that Rwanda faces. Key pillars of this effort include land consolidation, input access, reduction of post-harvest losses and access to markets. The programme ensures that every farmer, however small, has access to improved seeds, fertilisers, extension and a market opportunity.

Rwanda’s yields have quadrupled in these four years. Today it stands as the only country in the region that survived both the 2008 and 2010 food crisis, despite inflating food prices.

In many ways Rwanda is a microcosm of the global future of agriculture – a world in which countries have to reach and maintain high food production in the face of decreasing arable lands, rising fuel prices, high population density and an increasingly volatile climate. For Rwanda in particular, these challenges will not go away. Therefore, to stand the best chance in developing the country and reducing poverty, how we do the business of development is paramount.

The meeting in Busan is a chance for us to share and learn how to improve this business. From zero tolerance to corruption to upholding Paris Declaration principles, Rwanda has much to contribute to the Busan meeting.

Rwanda is co-hosting a side event with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). These two U.N. agencies have supported Rwanda for a very long time.  Notably, both were among the first multilaterals to come to the assistance of Rwanda immediately after the 1994 genocide; WFP with immediate humanitarian assistance and IFAD with the much needed development assistance.

IFAD’s presence in Rwanda was not surprising given its strong and firm belief in the potential and power of the smallholder farmers not only to feed themselves but also to form viable business entities. Nowhere else in the world does the term smallholder farmer hold more meaning than in Rwanda.

IFAD has since supported thousands of farmers to establish meaningful business in coffee and tea. The agency has also supported smallholder farmers to establish integrated farm projects around the government initiated one cow per poor household project that has moved the farmers above the poverty line in a space of two years.

IFAD has supported Rwanda in institutional building, ensuring skill availability in the design and implementation of Rwanda’s strategic plan to transform agriculture.

More recently, IFAD has supported Rwanda’s move to food security by supporting the Crop Intensification Programme through development of irrigation schemes, access to inputs and improving farmer organisation.

Likewise, WFP has demonstrated a firm belief in the capacity and potential of the smallholder farmer. It has recently moved from food assistance to purchasing food from smallholder farmers through the Purchase for Progress (P4P) programme. This programme has probably had the most influence on mobilising farmers to ensure food security and also get them out of poverty through sale of surplus produce.

The confidence of both IFAD and WFP in smallholder farmer capacity as important market players is the future of food security in Africa.  We in Rwanda applaud the support to smallholder farmers; we applaud WFP for initiating the P4P programme.


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