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…]

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…]

Helping Smallholder Farmers Succeed

n11ke2255-NileSprague (2)Author: TechnoServe

Photo credit: Nile Sprague/TechnoServe

A new UN report stresses the need to recognize diversity among smallholder farmers and adopt more targeted approaches for linking farmers to markets.

Small-scale farmers like Janise Gitonga, shown here tending a passion fruit vine on her farm in Kenya, are crucial to global food security. After all, smallholder agriculture is the main source of both food and income for millions of families in the developing world. A new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) calls for better integration of smallholder farmers into markets in order to alleviate hunger and poverty.

The report emphasizes the need for more nuanced strategies and policy-making to boost smallholder farm output. “Smallholders and small family farms are not homogeneous and face different sets of constraints to participation in markets,” the report states. Therefore, approaches for enhancing farmers’ integration and participation in markets should reflect this diversity.

TechnoServe has been working to help smallholder farmers participate in markets and improve their livelihoods for more than four decades. Programs like Project Nurture — a partnership with The Coca-Cola Company and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that aims to help more than 50,000 small-scale fruit farmers in East Africa double their incomes — utilize key strategies identified by the FAO, including supporting inclusive market development, strengthening farmer organizations and fostering private-sector investment. We understand that confronting the challenge of rural poverty requires thoughtful, market-based solutions.

Read the full FAO report.

For more information about TechnoServe’s work connecting smallholder farmers to markets download “8 Views for the G8: Business Solutions for African Smallholder farmers to Address Food Security and Nutrition”, a joint publication with Agriculture for Impact.