President Paul Kagame has said the government will invest heavily in agriculture to boost the economy and increase household income.
While officially opening the 12th National Dialogue Council (Umushyikirano), Kagame said agriculture proved that it was the backbone of Rwanda’s economy, citing the 3rd quarter economic outlook report indicating that agriculture contributed 34% ($680m) to the GDP ($2b) after services with 47%. Current total GDP is $7.5b.
Agriculture grew by 6% mainly resulting from increased food and cash crop production, such as vegetables, cassava, coffee, tea, livestock and fishing.
Individual farmers’ productivity increased and created an expanded aggregated productivity of the thus reducing food prices.
Kagame acknowledged the hard work done by local farmers to improve productivity and utilising government investments in various projects across the country, especially subsidies in irrigation and fertilizers.
“I want to thank Rwandan farmers for working hard to serve domestic and foreign markets,”
“But we can produce more,” Kagame said pledging more support to improve the sector.
Against the backdrop that the largest portion of the population, 85%, depends on agriculture, Kagame outlined three main areas of concern that will receive increased funding.
He said more investments in irrigation will improve productivity even during dry seasons and help “our farmers not to depend on rain.”
Currently, the government alone invests Rwf5b on irrigation every year.
Last year, World Bank approved $35msupport from the International Development Association (IDA) for Rwanda’s Hillside Irrigation
Secondly, the President said farmers will be helped access funds to invest in modern farming and improve productivity.
He did not announce a special fund, but he pointed out that farmers will be allowed to use their land tittles as collateral to access financing.
The third area he mentioned is research. He said more funding will be directed into research to find solutions to diseases and pests affecting farmers especially banana mosaic and Cassava Brown Streak.
Mid this year, a lethal virus tormented thousands of cassava growers in the districts of Ruhango, Kamonyi, Muhanga, and Nyanza – a half of Rwanda’s southern province.
Agronomists say the virus, which has no cure yet, is spreading so fast across the region and has already affected large portions of cassava plantations.
Epimaque Twagirimana, Ruhango district’s Vice Mayor, told KTPress that 90% of his district’s 319,885 population depends on growing cassava.
He estimates the disease is affecting over 70% of all cassava plantations in the district.
By: Dan Ngabonziza