On August 2-3, Prime Minister Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi was in the Parliament to brief Deputies and Senators on the developments in the agricultural sector, which generates at least 30% of the Rwandan economy and supports over 80% of the working population by employing them.
In his two day appearance in the bicameral parliament, the premier noted that the government was particularly moving to modernize the agricultural sector through irrigation and mechanization to ensure sufficient food production and sustainable economic development.
With the bulk of densely populated Rwanda's population living in the rural and agriculture as the dominant economic activity, the agricultural sector's development is a key pillar in growth and reducing poverty. While making a wider presentation on the sector performance, including status on crop production, animal resources, export commodities and import substitution commodities, Dr. Habumuremyi first told Senators and Deputies that there is a national irrigation potential of 589,711 hectares for different domains --ground water, rivers, runoff, lakes, small reservoirs and marshlands. "With respect to marshland development and hillside irrigation, significant achievements have already been registered," he said. "These include 1,750 hectares under irrigation of Muvumba marshland for rice farming, 1,000 hectares in the Kagitumba and Nasho valleys, and an additional 1,000 hectares of irrigation in the Rurambi marshland."
Activities planned for 2012-2013 include construction of five irrigation dams and the development of 1,391ha of hillside irrigation in Kirehe and Nyanza districts; development of pumping systems and hillside irrigation on 700ha in Nyagatare and Kirehe districts; construction of four dams for marshland irrigation in Cyiri, Rwinkwavu, Gacaca, and Karangazi-Rwangingo areas; and the development of marshland irrigation on 3,648hactares in Cyiri, Rwagitima, Rwinkwavu, Gacaca, Kirimbi and Karangazi- Rwangingo. On the status of mechanization in the country, the premier said that land ploughed by machines during the 2011 season A was 6,300hactares. In 2012 season B, it almost doubled to 11,350hactares. In season A of 2013, the plan is to have 12,400ha ploughed.
Dr. Habumuremyi said: "This goes hand in hand with the unveiling of village mechanization centers in 10 districts." These include Nyamata in Bugesera, Karongi, Rulindo, Rwamagana, Gatsibo, Nyanza, Nyagatare, Musanze, Ngoma, and Gasabo.
Rwanda has 527 types of agricultural machinery which include tractors, power tillers and rice transplanters. Some 94 tractors are owned by individual farmers while government owns 132.
On post-harvest arrangements, the Premier said 126 drying grounds were constructed and 1,527 drying shelters constructed in various districts.
He explained that infrastructure for strategic reserves that has been constructed include three metallic silos with the capacity of 30,000 metric tons - in Kigali, 20,000MT and in Nyagatare, 10,000 MT.
"We have six warehouses that have been constructed, three in the Kigali special economic zone, one in Bugesera, one in Kirehe, and another in Gatsibo.
We have rehabilitated two warehouses in Nyanza and Rusizi," Dr. Habumuremyi said, adding that storage capacity "achieved in the country" now stands at 123,000MT including 91,000 MT by government and 32,000 by the private sector.
Dr. Habumuremyi said the government has set up strategic reserves for insuring availability and stability of food in the country.
"The strategic reserve provides a market opportunity to the farmers and intervenes only in case of food emergencies caused by disasters. This strategic facility can intervene to support 300,000 households for up to three months."
In addition, the premier said that a Cassava processor was constructed in Kinazi (Ruhango) with the processing capacity of six MT of fresh cassava per hour.
This, he said, is in addition to three rice factories - with a processing capacity of 2.5MT per hour, each constructed in Gatsibo, Kirehe and Bugesera districts. The factories are being privatized.
Furthermore, an oil factory with processing capacity of 60 MT per day is under construction in Kayonza district, and an Irish potato factory is planned to start in Musanze, in 2013. Private investment in agriculture through the Grow Africa Initiative has been launched.
In general, 70% of the Rwandan households own livestock, according to latest government statistics. Rwanda owns, roughly, 798,836 sheep, 1, 334, 82 cows, 706,472 pigs, 4,080,706 poultry, and 844,696 rabbits. Under the country's dairy development plan, since 2006, 133,207 poor families received cows and have so far passed on 31,410 heifers.
Dr. Habumuremyi said 24,573 cows will be bought "for distribution" in 2012-13 and by end of next year, 200,000 families will have received cows. Under the Girinka program, government targets 350,000 by 2017.
Sensitization for Girinka initiatives continues through and with support of NGOs, fundraisings, and local initiatives.
Milk processing plants
Dr. Habumuremyi said the Nyagatare "milk basin" has Savannah Dairy with an installed capacity of 40,000 liters per day but it processes an average 23,000 liters daily. In Kigali, Inyange Industries has an installed capacity of 100,000 liters but it processes 45,000 liters daily.
Another plant, in Nyanza has a capacity of 10,000 liters but it handles half every day. Construction of a 50,000 capacity dairy in Gishwati (Mukamira dairy), is underway.
Small but vital nutrition ideas
To perk up Rwandan's nutrition, government initiated the one cup of milk program as well as the kitchen garden. In May 2010, the program started in 30 schools in six districts of Bugesera, Kamonyi, Nyanza, Karongi, Gakenke, and Ngororero.
In October 2011, the program was scaled up to 100 schools adding eight new districts of Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru, Gisagara, Huye, Rubavu, Nyamasheke, Rutsiro, and Ngoma. Dr. Habumuremyi said: "Currently 70,000 school children are benefiting from this program and kitchen gardens are established targeting malnourished 7, 947 households in seven districts."
Dr. Habumuremyi also shed light on progress in production in addition to export revenues. He said the coffee sub sector had an annual target of 19,349 MT but achieved 16,371 tons in 2011. Despite this, instead of a targeted US$73million, US$75 was received in revenue.
Tea's production target last year was 22,000 MT, but 24,169 MT were obtained, as well as US$59 million in export revenue. The horticulture sector as well superseded the production target of 26,125 MT to achieve 31,416 MT, and fetch US$ 4.36 million in export revenue. Some 18 MT of crude pyrethrum extract earned US$ 5.4 million in the same year. According to the Prime Minister, government, in the fiscal year 2012-13, targets to correct US$ 87 m, US$69m, and US$15m, from coffee, tea and horticulture, respectively.These revenue targets are even expected to get better in the near and far future, with the 2013-14 projections looking at US$108.55m, US$83m and US$79m, fetched from coffee, tea and horticulture, respectively. Receipts from the three sub sectors are expected to total US$446.5m in the 2015-16 period, US$ 542.1m in the 2016-17 period, and US$ 639m when the current government winds up its mandate, in 2017-18.
The Premier highlighted figures indicating a steady annual increase in rice production as the country plans to increase the area under cultivation from the current average of 20 hectares [over 100,000 tons annually], every season, to around 55 hectares [over 350,000 tons annually], every season, by 2018. The country also hopes to halt the importation of millet by 2017.
"Figures show that in 2016, Rwanda will attain self-sufficiency in rice production," Dr. Habumuremyi said.
The total raw sugar market saw 42,728 MT and 51,157 MT in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Dr. Habumuremyi said Rwanda needs, at least, 10,272 hectares of land under steady state cultivation to be able to meet the domestic raw sugar consumption necessity. "Measures taken to increase productivity include reinforcing the capacity of the Kabuye sugar works and creating a new sugar industry," he said.
The consumption of cooking oil is estimated at 128,571 ton per year, and all this quantity is imported, Dr. Habumuremyi said, noting that there is a plan to reduce importation dependence. The plan involves construction of a cooking oil factory with a 35% capacity--45,000ton per year-- within one year, in Eastern Province.
Readiness for season 2013 A
He premier said preparations for the next season are advanced as the procurement seeds and fertilizer inputs are done.
Agriculture committees at Cell and Sector level were engaged for participatory season planning and preparation and targets were discussed and approved jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) and Districts and included in District performance contracts - Imihigo. "Agricultural advisors in every village are also in place to mobilize farmers," the Premier said, adding that when it comes to sector targets versus the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) as well as government's seven-year targets, focus will be on multiplying the percentage of arable land protected against soil erosion; developing marshland; coffee production; fertilizer application; and the number of households using improved seeds.
Dr. Habumuremyi acknowledged challenges such as the low involvement of the private sector in agriculture sector and weak capacity of local private entrepreneurs in agriculture infrastructure.
He also pointed to problems in access to finance due to reluctance by financial institutions in lending to agriculture; low capacity of cooperatives; lack of skills in key domains such as irrigation, mechanization, breeding, post harvest, as some of the challenges that Rwandans have to reckon with.
In overcoming the challenges, Dr. Habumuremyi said capacity building in key priority areas such as irrigation, mechanization, breeding, post harvest, will be critical.
He pointed to the importance of strengthening cooperatives around land consolidated sites to become viable enterprises; creating incentives to attract private investment in agricultural value chains and "investing in agricultural research and technology transfer for the benefit of farmers and value chain players."