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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.