Kigali — There is a very delicate balance between food security, fighting poverty, and protecting the environment under the threat of increasing population pressure and climate change.
By 2050, the world's population is expected to reach 9.3 billion, with millions of the rural poor still dependent on agriculture. Given that 80% of Rwandans are engaged in agriculture, Rwanda is always looking for ways to modernise agriculture without endangering its environment.
It is against this backdrop that Rwanda, since yesterday, is hosting the first international biennial conference on agricultural research and extension. The conference hopes to find new ways of containing hunger especially in Sub-Saharan Africa while providing economic opportunities for the millions of the rural poor who depend on agriculture.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Agnes Kalibata said that it is crucial that the research being done in Rwanda pays attention to the challenges farmers face so any actions taken can be benefit them most. "An important point to consider is producing more with less. The smallholder farmer has an average of 0.7 hectares of land; this is not going to increase anytime soon. It's always going to be less, but we need to produce more."
And higher production affects both citizens themselves and the many industries connected to agriculture. "We need more to feed our growing population and we also need to do business," said Minister Kalibata.
The challenges of climate change:
"From experience, our farmers predicted the seasonal changes, but now that climate change is increasingly becoming an issue, it is interfering with the agriculture production process and creating major problems within the sector," said Minister Kalibata.
To respond to this, the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) is taking the initiative to take stock of progress in technology development and transfer platforms that are responsive to current and emerging socio-economic development challenges and climate change.
The three day conference will see researchers discuss efforts in research and technology transfer in areas of crop, livestock, and natural resource management with regional and international research communities.
One hundred and seventy five papers have been submitted for presentation on a wide range of topics including lessons and challenges on various issues relating to climate change.
Keynote speakers include Tim Searchinger of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School, RAB Research Director General Dr. Daphrose Gahakwa, Kilimo Trust CEO Professor Nuhu Hatibu, Wageningen University Professor Leo Stroosnijder, Professor Adewale Adekunle, Professor Kelly Valerie, and Global Environment Facility's Rose Mukankomeje.
The conference will be followed up with a farmers' and cooperatives' agricultural exhibition and a series of field excursions to Karama Station, the Special Economic Zones, Musanze Research Station and Gishwati Forest Reserve.