The New Times (Kigali)

9 June 2014

Rwanda: Govt to Lift Three Million People Out of Poverty in Five Years

The government targets lifting three million more people out of poverty in the next five years, Dr Agnes Kalibata has said.

The Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources was yesterday speaking at the second Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) meeting in Kigali.

The meeting, attended by policymakers, agriculture ministers from Africa and representatives from international organisations, is a presentation of the third stage of a strategic plan from the Ministry of Agriculture to improve the industry, as part of the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy to meet the Vision 2020 agenda.

"We made a commitment so we have to do it," Kalibata said.

The minister could not, however, say how the target would be achieved, saying instead it was a work in progress that would be determined by policymakers.

Panelists praised the progress Rwanda made under the first CAADP plan developed in March 2007 in Kigali to improve agricultural productivity and prosperity.

Under the first CAADP pact, Rwanda committed to spend 10 per cent of its budget on agriculture to grow the industry by 6 per cent.

Currently, agriculture is growing at 5.8 per cent per year and 80 per cent of Rwandans are employed in agriculture, said Lamin Manneh, the resident coordinator of One-UN Rwanda.

Rice farming productivity has grown from 1.5 tonnes to 6 tonnes per head, said Dr Sam Kanyarukiga, CAADP coordinator for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

"Rwanda has continued to be a shining star and providing best practices for other countries on the continent," Kanyarukiga said.

But panelists agreed there are many challenges still ahead if Rwanda is to continue pulling people out of poverty.

The country lifted at least one million citizens out of poverty in five years between 2006 and 2011.

Food security and malnutrition:

Dr Kalibata said Rwanda needed to maintain food security and progress toward poverty reduction in spite of the challenges to agriculture presented by climate change.

She also said malnutrition among children urgently needs to be addressed. Currently, 44 per cent of Rwandan children are malnourished.

Dr David Nabarro, a UN expert on nutrition, linked solving malnutrition with economic prosperity.

"Agriculture strategies are truly responsible for ensuring that all people's nutritional needs can be fulfilled while at the same time contributing to social and economic growth," he said.

In her closing remarks, Dr Kalibata emphasised the importance of encouraging private sector players, women and youth in agricultural work.

By involving the private sector, the government hopes that more opportunities will be created to innovate in the agricultural industry and export finished products such as coffee and tea.

Women make up the majority of agricultural labour force in the country, but they lag behind men in access to products inputs such as livestock, fertiliser and other farming resources.

Tony Nsanganira, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the private sector needed to be in the "driving seat" of the 2013-2017 agriculture strategic plan.

He encouraged private sector representatives at the meeting to think creatively about what investment opportunities may exist for them.

Nsanganira also acknowledged that the ministry needed to think critically about incentives the private sector would need to become more involved in agriculture.

Mandi Rukuni, who conducted an independent technical review of the plan for New Partnership for Africa's Development, said government's agriculture strategic plan should be more specific on how Rwanda will attract more private sector involvement.

"It's not enough to have a policy environment that is conducive to investment; you also need some foundation of business activities," Rukuni said.

Rukuni suggested the Ministry of Agriculture should target industries and sectors that will facilitate growth, such as truckers, processors, cold chain suppliers, warehousing and financiers.

The high-level Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme meeting closes today.

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