21 February 2013

Rwanda: Northern Province Struggles to Ensure Food Security

THERE IS need for concerted efforts to increase crop production in the Northern Province to ensure food security in the area.

"We must increase food production to satisfy the available market. Besides, this (more output) will help improve the economic status and livelihood of farmers," Agriculture minister Dr. Agnes Kalibata said during a Northern Province regional consultative meeting yesterday.

This followed concerns by the provincial leaders over the declining food production in the region.

Earlier, Jean Claude Izamuhaye, the Rwanda Agricultural Board provincial director, said farmers in the region concentrated on non-food security in the second planting season. This, he said, creates imbalances in agricultural production and compromises the country's food security.

"Farmers are still reluctant to put equal efforts in both planting seasons to ensure good and balanced harvests," he said.

Food security crops in Rwanda include beans, maize, Irish potatoes and wheat.

Izamuhaye noted that during the second season, farmers mostly grow sorghum, yet it is not one of the stipulated food security crops.

He, however, said famers would be encouraged to adopt crop rotation to stabilise the seasonal agriculture production in the region.

"Otherwise, it means that agricultural output will constantly fluctuate, which threatens the country's food security in the long-run," he said.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, the total area of planted land during the second season often drops by 30 per cent compared to first one.

Last season, 143,842 hectares of consolidated land was planted with food security crops compared to the anticipated area of 100,504 hectares this season.

Kalibata said the region was one of the best users of fertilisers, dismissing any justification for failure to establish a balanced level of seasonal agricultural production.

However, Joseph Gafaranga, a representative of a farmers' co-operative in Musanze district, told The New Times that sometimes they get seeds and fertilisers late, which affects crop production.

Agriculture is the biggest contributor to the country's economy, but only 52 per cent of arable land is currently under use.

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