Farming in a tough environment: A visit to Rwanda

By Gordon Conway

landscape Rwanda (9)Visiting farms in Rwanda is an exercise in mountaineering, scrambling sometimes on all fours over great volcanic boulders. But the effort is worth it. As we saw on our visit there in February, farmers in Rwanda are beginning to do well.

The statistics tell a good story. GDP has rebounded with an average annual growth of 7-8% since 2000 and average annual agricultural growth rates reached 5.7% between 2001 and 2012. And you can see the effects on the ground, partly the consequences of a good partnership between NGOs, the private sector and the government. The new minister of agriculture Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, who gained her PhD in bean genetics from Michigan State University is a good example of President Kagame’s policy of appointing technically qualified ministers. She works on developing new policies while one of her predecessors Dr Daphrose Gahakwa is DDG of the Rwanda Agricultural Board that oversees research, extension and other implementing agencies.

Technoserve STRYDE schadrack with tree tomatoes

Schadrack, a farmer on TechnoServe’s STRYDE programme, with his tree tomatoes

Farm plots across the country have an average size of 0.6 hectares and tend to be fragmented over several locations. As a result, many households actually farm as little as 0.4 hectares. Farmers use the flat land to grow crops to sell at local markets, and the steeper, more difficult to farm slopes for growing food for household consumption. An increasing population density is putting additional pressure on the scarce land, encouraging people to move on to ever steeper slopes. The mountainous landscape presents significant challenges to farmers. Farming is not only physically more demanding and tiring but the shallow soils found on steep slopes are also prone to erosion and landslides. [Read more…]

Premise of progress – Building human and social capital for Africa’s agricultural success

By Katrin Glatzel

It is not uncommon that young people don’t want to follow in their parents’ footsteps, especially if it means a low income, food insecurity and back-breaking work.

For the agriculture sector in Africa, this is a big challenge. With over half of the population working in agriculture, the average African farmer is now between 50 and 60 years old. At the same time, the need for greater agricultural production is acute. In order to feed the projected population of 2050, global food production will need to increase by around 60%.

Africa is uniquely positioned to meet this challenge. An estimated 60% of the world’s undeveloped arable land is in Africa, there is great potential for increased irrigation and crop productivity, and a rapidly increasing population of young people are ready to transform their continent.

1However, to the majority of young people, the idea of working in agriculture is anything but exciting. More and more young Africans move into cities searching for better education and employment opportunities. Based on current trends, 59% of 20-24 year olds in sub-Saharan Africa will complete secondary education in 2030, compared to 42% in 2012. This translates into 137 million young people with secondary education and 12 million with tertiary education by 2030. Yet, only 2% of students are enrolled in agricultural programmes, compared to 26% who study humanities. [Read more…]