Rwanda has moved steadfast towards agricultural revolution, with farmers growing more food at less cost to the environment.
Rwanda government through the Ministry of agriculture embraced a holistic, integrated approach to food security, one that looks beyond the food system to the inseparable goals of reducing poverty, tackling climate change and reducing biodiversity loss.
The new approach of crop intensification is expected to unlock an agricultural advancement, which will benefit the poorest the most, simply by improving access to knowledge and technology, creating better access to markets and investing in infrastructure.
Dr. Agnes Kalibata, the Rwandan Minister of Agriculture and Animal husbandry says that Addressing rural poverty calls for producing enough food to provide for the population, adding that it needs a sustained focus on agriculture.
The Minister who advises local leaders and other stakeholders on matters pertaining agricultural revolution says that Rwanda needs to maximise agricultural production to develop.
“We need to enhance our economic growth by investing in agriculture… it is in this way that we shall be able to feed our populations and be resilient to shocks caused by changing global food prices,” Minister Kalibata says.
Charles Kamanda, a Legislature, shares the view that agriculture as Rwanda’s economic backbone can only flourish if modern farming is practised.
“To fuel this revolution, we must open up regional markets, participate in regional trade and make reforms that help the poorest. We can’t afford to live with deception that over 90% of our people practise agriculture”.
“It must be reality, so it is our obligation as leaders to help our people to produce enough for domestic and external markets,” he said.
Agricultural intensification takes many specific forms, including irrigation, application of fertilizers, use of animals or machinery to till land, etc.
One important dimension of Rwanda’s agricultural intensification is that it checked wastage, ignorance, primitive, and environmentally destructive practices.
It is vital to note that as production strategies are used to double food production, their expected ecological impacts that could make production systems unsustainable are catered for.
The agricultural system has therefore intensified the use of land and water resources through more sustainable methods and through changing old production systems and diversifying into new, more productive enterprises.
Crop intensification programs recently launched in Rwanda will increase the productivity of existing land and water resources in the production of food and cash crops, livestock, forestry, and aquaculture.
The intensification coupled with more efficient use of production inputs, use of improved varieties and breeds, more efficient use of labor, and better farm management holds great future for the country.
The Girinka project has virtually left every community with a reasonable number of cows, capable of offering enough manure for crops.
Situations where farmers have embraced high yielding crops, and rearing of modern cows, have transformed people’s livelihoods and lifestyles.
People do not need to keep many cows, but retain few that will provide enough milk and manure for crops.
Juliet Kayitesi, a resident of Rwamagana District, said that modern farming and agriculture made her dessert the job she loved most-teaching.
The self-retired 42 year old Primary school teacher started modern banana growing 5 years ago, but has come to terms with reality of hard work.
She reflects her transition from poverty to riches, adding that modern farming could make any person rich in a short period.
“During a workshop organised by district officials, some friends told me the benefits of joining modern farming. I quit teaching and started growing bananas, as I reared a Friesian cow on the other side.
My initial capital of 1 million was a bank loan, which I had to service for 3 years… I now live a good life and my capital exceeds Rwf 50 million,” she said.
Vivance Ndahimana, a cassava grower, said that his land was barren, until he got a cow from the Girinka project.
“The cassava plantation I have today is on one and half hectares of land. But because the land is very fertile nowadays, I only plant, weed and harvest every season to get my millions.
My cows are strategically located at the top of the hill, so that manure and urea flows down the farm,” he says.
The topography in some districts may not allow use of mechanisation easily. Some areas are dominated by steep hills and there are currently no special tractors for such land.
The population needs more sensitization to fully embrace the use of fertilizers to maximise crop production. It is a sad reality that some farmers sell off the cheap fertilizers, to people who smuggle it to neighbouring countries.
The agronomists and veterinary officers must live to the expectations and offer technical services highly needed by new modern farmers.
It is also regrettable that most of these officers, have failed to deliver citing multi-excuses including the genuine one of lack of transport.
However, the overall trend of agriculture revolution is promising.
By Stephen Rwembeho, The New Times