Ideally, improving food security should just be not only a question of increasing production, but also a matter of ensuring that the food that is produced is used to the best effect. And when we talk about modernizing agriculture, post harvest handling should be a very important component of the whole value chain; especially when it comes to African countries where many people are exposed to shortage of food.
Despite the ideal, the World Bank report released early March, revealed that in Africa vast amounts of food are wasted during production and processing. This means that countries on the continent still have a long way to go if they have to rely on the sector to position their economies.
Therefore, significant work is to be done by both Governments and stakeholders. This is what happened recently in Rwanda when the Government of Rwanda and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched a new project that is meant to advance the country’s efforts to reduce post-harvest losses.
The Climate Resilient and Post-harvest Agribusiness Support Project (PASP) will target over 32,400 rural households (155,518 people) in 10 districts located in Rwanda’s the north-west, southern and eastern regions will benefit from PASP. The project will provide opportunities for smallholder farmers to acquire the skills, knowledge and access to specialized service providers to create and operate viable businesses capable of delivering larger volumes of improved produce to the market and managing the climate risks in post-production processes.
I can say that such a project is a timely undertaking for various reasons.
First of all, we need to understand Rwanda’s recent move. Under the Government of Rwanda’s Crop Intensification Programme (CIP), the total production of maize, wheat and cassava tripled from 2007 to 2011, the production of beans doubled, and the production of rice and Irish potato rose by 30 per cent. Concurrent with the increase in crop production, Rwanda has also seen a shift towards more commercial agriculture. However, post-harvest losses are recognized as one of the greatest sources of inefficiency in agricultural production in Rwanda; and therefore, one of the best opportunities for effectively improving crop productivity and resilience given the country’s reliance on rainfed agriculture and its vulnerability to climate change.
In a general sense, increasing productivity is one thing, but also maintain the yields in good quality is another thing because without drying and storage facilities , the country’s abundant yields deteriorate and be unable to command a good price, which in turn affect the entire economy which still heavily relies on agriculture. Thus the huge investments by the government in the sector would come to nought if there is no mechanism to contain the production losses.
Obviously the National Adaptation Programme of Action and National Strategy of Rwanda on Climate Change and Low-Carbon Development highlight improved post-harvest management as a key climate change adaptation priority. With multiple cropping systems promoted under CIP, harvesting is now taking place at wetter times of the year, which means that farmers can no longer rely on the sun to dry cereals and pulses to safe moisture-content levels for storage. Higher humidity conditions at harvest are more conducive for development of micro-organisms and insects, causing higher levels of deterioration of crops in storage. In dairy value chains, water scarcity is influencing fodder production, and temperature fluctuations complicate the safe storage, transport and cooling of milk in the supply chain. To buffer this growing range of climate-induced stresses, new agricultural investment programmes need to incorporate improved post-harvest processing and storage techniques.
This is exactly what the PASP will also do. It is supported by an IFAD loan of US$13.45 million and grants of US$13.45 million and US$7 million provided by IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Program (ASAP). PASP will be strengthened through a US$7 million ASAP grant which will provide incremental support to address the climate-related post-harvest problems in the Crop Intensification Programme crops and dairy, and ensure that appropriate mechanisms are established to safeguard food security.
“The realization of the Rwanda Vision 2020 will primarily depend on the dynamism of the agricultural sector and in particular the growth and sustainability of food crops in the face of increasing climatic uncertainties. PASP is fully aligned with the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture (PSTAIII), which provides the policy framework for the agricultural sector in the country”, said Tony Nsanganira, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. “Still in the process of being adopted, PSTAIII translates government policy objectives into a comprehensive roadmap to transform Rwanda’s agriculture from a subsistence to a knowledge-based, value-creating sector while ensuring food security and preserving natural resources under increasing climatic uncertainty”.
“PASP is expected to leverage at least three times the investment being made by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources from financial institutions as well as viable Public-Private Partnerships and inclusive business partnerships between smallholder farmers and private sector. It should not be any more about scaling up projects, but about scaling up investments and results,” said Francisco Pichon, Country Program Manager, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
With the total cost of US$83.35 million, the project will be cofinanced by the Government of Rwanda and the beneficiaries through loans from the national commercial banking sector and will be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources under the supervision of IFAD.
Within such framework that makes governments and partners to strength the value chain, surely we can expect to see millions of people on the continent getting out of poverty soon.