2014: Year for horticulture industry to flourish in Rwanda?

The end of last year (2013) and the beginning of 2014 have been marked by a series of activities indicating the government will to boost horticulture industry in Rwanda. The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) has been signing a good number of Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with recognized international institutions and companies having indubitable expertise in horticulture business; with the intention to develop the industry in Rwanda.

orange plantation (Photo: internet)

orange plantation (Photo: internet)

For instance, in early December 2013, the Ministry of Agriculture & Animal Resources and Greenport Holland International (GHI), on behalf of the Dutch Smart Adaptive Sustainable Horticulture (SMASH) consortium, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the basis for a cooperative institutional and private sector relationship promoting horticultural technology and development in Rwanda.

Areas of cooperation will include innovative technology transfer, capacity building and knowledge transfer between both public and private stakeholders of both countries, as well as marketing and supply chain development in the sector.

The pilot phase will include the creation of a greenhouse for tomato growing; GHI will be exploring other crops that can be grown in greenhouses and have similar cost benefits for farmers.  A preliminary design has already been created.

And that was not all. In late November, the ministry had received a team of Netherlands Agribusiness Mission is in Rwanda to present their Mission of promoting horticulture in the country.

The mission consisted of several companies: Kuehne & Nagel Group (K&N)/Johan Van de Put Fresh Cargo Handling BV, EWF Ethioplants, DATC Group, Amiran Kenya, and ProCrop & New Holland Flowers Kenya.

The mission was focused on the horticulture value chain in Rwanda, particularly in floriculture, coffee, greenhouse farming, and logistics.

The idea was formed in response to Minister of Agriculture & Animal Resources (MINAGRI) Dr. Agnes Kalibata’s follow-up of her visit to the Netherlands in the past, inviting interested investors to come to Rwanda.

Apart from the close collaboration with these institutions from The Netherlands, also the Government of Israel and Government of Rwanda intensified activities meant to establish a Center of Excellence (COE) in Rwanda, following a request for a professional consultancy by the Government of Rwanda. Obviously the COE establishment will build on the last significant partnership project between Israel and Rwanda within the agriculture sector: sending Rwandan students to an 11-month Israeli internship program that focuses on horticulture training. These students are taking their internship projects further with the Ministry of Agriculture & Animal Resources on-ground. So far, 30 Rwanda students have completed the internship program while 129 students are pursuing the internship in Israel.

Billions of dollars investment

Onion garden (Photo: internet)

Onion garden (Photo: internet)

And recently, the Ministry of Agriculture & Animal Resources and a firm based in Luxembourg, Erasmus Investment International (EII), last Thursday signed a letter of intent which is about collaboration on a sustainable long term investment in hillside irrigation & cultivation of land; furthermore on development of horticulture including greenhouses, and the fruit & vegetable processing industry. The total project portfolio is US$.1.5 billion

With the US$.1.5 billion capital, the EII investment program will make joint ventures with local private companies and create new companies while EII will be and stay a majority shareholder in all entities created under the investment program to be able to control the achievement of the objectives.

These are some of the recent major events that marked the trend of horticulture industry in Rwanda – clearly showing that the ministry is heavily pushing for something to happen quickly. Though it’s in their usual responsibilities to strive for agriculture development, but anyone can wonder the reason behind this extra effort and special emphasis on the horticulture industry.

Exports to increase by 28% every year

Although horticulture has huge potential for gains in Rwanda, but, to be honest, several areas of horticulture are still unexploited, while the horticulture has huge potential to increase Rwanda’s exports.

Yet, key national economic programs such as Vision 2020 and the second phase of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS2) emphasizes on increasing national exports to stimulate national economic growth and reduce poverty.

The EDPRS2 envisages that national exports should increase by 28% every year – and horticulture has been identified as the potential area that will help the country to achieve this target. Then, this is evidently one of the reasons behind the quick push by the ministry of agriculture in order to unblock this potential.

Favorable conditions for horticulture

And, as experts have been proving, Rwandacan be the nextsuccess storyin horticulture: the country is blessed with the natural climatic conditions necessary to win in horticulture with the right soils, temperatures, rainfall, and sunshine, as well as an abundant and labor force. Experts also indicate that horticulture proves to have extremely high potential as the coffee and tea industries have already proved.

In addition, with a growing number of airlines flying in and out of Rwanda, and the long and continuous preparation of the Government of Rwanda to create an attractive investment climate, the sector is now seen as a high priority for the country.

Moreover, with support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources are providing farmers with incentives of 50% as grant on vegetables and fruit projects. The support is channeled through Rural Income Through Exports (PRICE) Project.

If all these plans get materialized, Rwanda’s annual economic growth, currently standing at 8%, will hit its target of 11.5%.  This would also be another milestone to Rwanda’s agriculture success story; after achieving food security since 2009. And the agriculture sector remains among the biggest contributors to the country’s economy – it contributed 33% to the country’s GDP last year; hence the government is striving to exploit all available untapped areas such as horticulture.

And obviously there is a good indication for horticulture to flourish in Rwanda. For instance, Rwanda’s Presidential Advisory Council held last September, focused on sustainable methods to boost agricultural productivity as well as strategies to promote private sector investment into agriculture value chains, where horticulture is among priorities, in line with President Paul Kagame’s commitment to fixing the country’s biggest employer – around 80% of Rwandans rely on agriculture.

Then, based on the current trend, anyone can predict that this year is likely to see significant steps made in horticulture industry development in Rwanda, though only time will prove this to happen.