The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: New Agri-Business Fund Launched

In a bid to further strengthen ties with the Rwandan government, the Dutch government has invested over two million Euros aimed at boosting innovation in the agricultural sector.

The new fund dubbed the Agri-Sector Development Facility is a flexible funding mechanism that facilitates the introduction and application of new innovative practices, partnerships and business models of Rwandan farmers, producer organisations, agri-business and their partners in the value chains related to food security.

While unveiling the Agri- Sector Development Facility (ASDF) on Thursday evening in Kigali, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ernest Ruzindaza, said access to finance for farmers has been a challenge and thus the facility was coming in handy.

The permanent secretary further said the government is working on attracting the private sector into agriculture, and urged farmers to focus more on exportation of their produce.

"I am privileged to be here launching this facility that is going to improve the lives of Rwandans. Let me use this opportunity to ask farmers to revisit how we can increase exports using this facility," he said.

He advised farmers to show value for money, arguing that it is key to development and appealed to fund managers to support people who want to access the facility.

ASDF has two distinct windows for funding initiatives, namely the Agri-Sector Innovation Fund (ASIF) and the Capacity Building and Small Investments Fund (CaBIF).

According to Fund manager, Straton Habyalimana, ASIF provides contributions up to €100.000 to multi-actor initiatives aimed at boosting agri-sector development.

"ASIF is open to new initiatives and calls for proposals on specific themes of interest. The first call will be out on Monday, December 15, 2013; and will be published in the newspapers."

"The other funding window is the Capacity Building and small Investments Fund (CBIF), providing 50% co-funding up to a maximum of € 10.000 for capacity development activities and innovative investments of producers organisations and of small agri-business enterprises.

The CBIF aims to further the development of applying organisations into 'bankable' enterprises. The CBIF window is always open and the time lag between application and funding normally should not exceed three weeks," Habyalimana explained.

Teddie Muffels, from the Embassy of the Netherlands, mentioned the opportunities the facility creates for Dutch-Rwandan partnerships in knowledge and business.

Muffels urged farmers to focus more on quality production.

The ASIF will target all agri-value chains except coffee, tea, potatoes and milk that are already funded by other sources.

It will also consider all activities in the value chain that is production, processing, distribution, marketing and export.

To be eligible for this facility, one should have innovative multi-actor projects.

John Bosco Kabagambe, a fish farmer from Burera District said the facility will help poor farmers to save and re-invest which has not been the case.

"You see most banks are not willing to give farmers money because they think that agriculture is a risky venture, yet some sub-sectors are profitable but are not exploited due to lack of funds," Kabagambe said.

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