Food for thought from the land of a thousand hills

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

By Gordon Conway, Imperial College London

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The key to Rwanda’s agricultural success is good partnership between nongovernmental organisations, the private sector and the government. Sam Thompson/DFID Rwanda

 

On my most recent visit to Rwanda, it was evident that farmers there are beginning to do well. I have visited the country on a number of occasions over the past ten years, and each time I am impressed to see significant improvements in the lives of ordinary people. With average annual agricultural growth rates reaching 5.7% between 2001 and 2012, and average annual gross domestic product growth of 7%-8% since 2000, the signs are looking good.

Farmland covers three quarters of all land in Rwanda, amounting to about 18,425 km². Of the agricultural land, half of landholdings are less than half a hectare in size, and two-thirds of all food produced is for household consumption. This indicates that the agricultural sector remains largely subsistence in nature, despite the fact that these small farms are becoming increasingly commercial. Rwanda is famous for its coffee and tea, which combined account for about 70% of agricultural export earnings.

Rwanda certainly lives up to the tagline “the land of a thousand hills”, with stunning mountain scenery at every turn. This is beautiful for the visitor, but it presents real challenges to farmers, who typically have a farm plot that is just 0.6 hectares in size. Plots also tend to spread over several locations, resulting in many households farming as little as 0.4 hectares.

A thousand hills

The flatter land is often used to grow crops to sell at local markets. The steeper slopes, which are more difficult to farm, are used to grow food for household consumption. But as the population swells, additional pressure is loaded onto scarcer land. This encourages people to move on to even steeper slopes, where farming is physically more demanding and the shallower soils are more prone to erosion and landslides. [Read more…]

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…]

Rwandan agrodealer’s shop may still be small, but her ideas are big

By Alice Marks

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Odette Dusabuwera in her agrodealer shop

The inability to access inputs is often cited as a major barrier to increasing the productivity of farms and improving the livelihoods of rural farmers. One Acre Fund (OAF), known as Tubura in Rwanda, has served more than 113,500 farmers since it started operations in the country in 2007, and now employs more than 1,400 staff members. One of their programs aims to tackle this barrier by working with agrodealers, providing them with credit for OAF seed and other inputs, such as much-needed fertiliser so that they can stock their shops with good quality products. OAF-supported agrodealers can expect to make US$2000-3000 per year in profit.

On a recent visit to Rwanda, OAF took us to meet Odette Dusabuwera, an agrodealer from Rubengera, in Western Rwanda, to find out how this approach was working for the agrodealers and farmers. [Read more…]

Young, energetic and visionary – Welcome to the country of a thousand hills and a million smiles

By Katrin Glatzel

DSC_0198I have just returned from Rwanda. Now back in London, sitting in my office, I still feel captured by the energy and enthusiasm that emanated from all those young people we met during our visit. Rwanda, a small, land-locked country in Eastern Africa not bigger than Belgium or Switzerland, has a population of roughly 11million (in 2014), with the majority younger than 19 years old and 72% living in rural areas. With 460 people per km² Rwanda is twice as densely populated as Switzerland, and nearly as mountainous! Rwanda has the aftermath of the genocide to overcome, but it is remarkable seeing young people in particular seize opportunities for themselves and their communities. They are helping the country get on its feet again, by contributing to its economic growth and prosperity.

A Tuesday morning in February in Rwanda 

As we get into our car and make our way through the morning rush hour traffic in Kigali heading north, what strikes me is not only how tidy and organised the city is, but also the number of young people, men and women, going about their work and daily business.

The drive takes us through windy roads and stunning landscapes. 100km and 2.5 hours later we arrive at Musanze District near the borders of Uganda and the DRC, where we are spending the day with TechnoServe to learn more about their STRYDE program (Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise). Through STRYDE TechnoServe supports young people in rural areas to get their business ideas off the ground and become successful entrepreneurs. The programme provides training on business management skills, financial literacy and personal development for a period of three months; upon completion of the training, TechnoServe supports the STRYDE graduates to develop sound business plans and facilitates access to loans, through for example the BDF. [Read more…]

Update: Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis and Nutrition Survey Rwanda, 2012

world-food-programme-wfpThe World Food Programme (WFP) carries out baseline surveys within countries to get a better understanding of the food security situation and the vulnerability of households. Entitled the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CVFSA), over 80 of these surveys, since 2003, have been carried out.

The 2009 Rwanda CVFSA and Nutrition Survey was discussed in One Billion Hungry in chapters 2 and 6. This survey being an update on the 2006 CVFSA.  Now a further 2012 CVFSA and Nutrition Survey for Rwanda has been carried out and here we lay out some of the top line results.

The survey seeks to “analyse trends of food insecurity and malnutrition over time, measuring their extent and depth and identifying their underlying causes”. The survey was led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) and the WFP and supported and coordinated by a myriad of agencies and organisations.

The study found that in general food production was increasing; markets were functioning relatively well and that food movement within and outside the country was relatively free flowing due to a well-connected road network and market infrastructure.

But:

  • 51% of all households reported some type of difficulty accessing food
  • 14% of households have usual and almost year round chronic difficulties in accessing food
  • A total of 21% of households are food insecure [Read more…]