Mobilization still an issue in modernizing agriculture

The ministry of agricul­ture and animal resourc­es (Minagri) is embark­ing on new strategies to show opportunities in the sector so as to attract private investors to boost agricultural income through value addition.

Maize plantation on a consolidated land in Eastern part of Rwanda (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Maize plantation on a consolidated land in Eastern part of Rwanda (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

The ministry’s officials ex­plain that the new plans con­sists of identifying major ‘ag­riculture investment hubs’ that are meant to provide investors with guidelines showing them where there is high potential return.

Dr Jean Jacques Muhinda Mbonigaba, the director gen­eral of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), says that they have already identified invest­ment hubs based on the highly competitive crops available in the areas. The eastern part of Rwanda has thus been identi­fied as the investment hub ded­icated for livestock and banana, while Irish potatoes and wheat are among the main assets of the north-western part of the coun­try. The south has been associ­ated with a high potential for coffee and wheat investment while Kigali city will be mainly for agro-processing.

The ministry has put in place the Crop Intensification Pro­gram which according to offi­cials has increased agricultural production, although there is still a room for improvement. “Our concern is how do we sus­tain what we have achieved by attracting huge investments in order to add value to the whole chain,” pointed out Innocent Musabyimana, the deputy di­rector general of RAB, who is in charge of agricultural exten­sion.

Minagri’s new plans are be­ing implemented under the Grow Africa initiative, which is a partnership platform that seeks to accelerate investments and transformative change in African agriculture based on national agricultural priorities and in support of the Com­prehensive African Agricul­tural Development Program (CAADP), a program of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), estab­lished by the African Union in 2003.

The officials note that agri­culture modernization is part of the second phase of the five-year Strategic Plan for Agricul­tural Transformation (SPAT II) set to run from 2012 to 2017.

Though the sector is now keen to showcase private in­vestment opportunities, the RAB boss admits that the lead­ership commitment is still a prerequisite in setting up basic infrastructure and work on risk management. He for instance says that the crop intensifica­tion and land use consolidation still need to be improved.

Land consolidation

The land use consolidation has registered good progress since 2008. By the start of this year, about 744,000 ha had been consolidated, up from 28,000 ha in 2008. However, only a half of the consolidated land is said to be in good shape.

The program has so far con­solidated about 40% of the country’s arable land and some districts such as Gatsi­bo, Ngoma, Kirehe and Gak­enke have surpassed the rate of 50%. “Even though we can finalize the land use consoli­dation, there is still a room for improvement on productivity,” says Mbonigaba.

According to the official, that can be achieved by intensifying the use of fertilizers and irriga­tion scheme. The use of fertil­izers is indeed still low, esti­mated at 36% of cultivated land countywide.

The study indicates that there is a potential to irrigate more than 600,000 ha, but the land covered by the irrigation scheme is still less than 30,000 ha. The government has set a target to achieve 100,000 ha by 2017 including 65,000 ha on marshland and 35,000 ha on hillside irrigation.

Terraces have also been iden­tified as another factor that can increase productivity. In Karongi and Rutsiro districts, the land husbandry and the fertilizer package succeeded in increasing the production ten­fold, according to the officials.

There is a potential to have 240,000 ha terraces country­wide, while only 45,000 ha are covered. “It requires a huge in­vestment to cover the remain­ing land to increase productiv­ity,” observes Mbonigaba.

Conflicts

While all those programs have significantly increased production, farmers in some ar­eas have been up in arms with their local leaders. In some ar­eas, for instance, farmers have been planting sorghum clan­destinely and local leaders re­sorted to uprooting them. The farmers say they do so because sometimes there is not enough rain to grow other crops such as maize.

Such conflicts obvious­ly hamper the mobilization among farmers, thus stall­ing the implementation of the programs. James Musoni, the Minister of Local Government, recognizes the malpractices of some local leaders, and says that for instance recently one of them was arrested in Gicumbi district because he had uproot­ed sorghum.

Chinese entrepreneurs (here seen with Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi) are already investing to provide farmers with modern tools.

Chinese entrepreneurs (here seen with Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi) are already investing to provide farmers with modern tools.

“That goes against good gov­ernance,” Musoni pointed out. “Farmers should grow crops of their priority and local gov­ernment officers are there to provide them with guidance on how to go about it, not to harm them by destroying their crops.”

For the minister, farmers should be assisted to grow the priority crops on the consoli­dated land and let them use the unconsolidated areas (esti­mated to be more than 60% of cultivated space) to grow other crops if they find them profit­able.

The effective approach, the minister noted, should be fact-based education where Minagri and local government officials explain advantages of the pro­gram, but also assess if such ar­eas are appropriate for the in­tended crops so that the farmers can adopt the programs enthu­siastically for their own benefit.

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