9 January 2018

Rwanda: Lawmakers Urge Rab to Disseminate Research Findings to the Grassroots

Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) has been urged to ensure that its research findings impact Rwandans across the country.

RAB officials were appearing before members of the Senatorial Committee on Social Affairs on Monday.

In terms of research, the Director General of RAB, Dr Mark Cyubahiro Bagabe, said that, among others, 16 mango varieties have been introduced and evaluated since 2012 at different RAB extension research centres.

After field trials had given results, four most successful varieties were selected and multiplied for dissemination to farmers.

Many farmers in Bugarama, Bugesera, Kayonza, Kirehe and Nyagatare districts are currently owners of orchards, according to Bagabe.

Up to 17 citrus from China are under evaluation while good agronomic practices of watermelon including rate and type of fertilizer, spacing and pruning methods of open and hybrid varieties cultivated in Rwanda were developed and disseminated to the farmers.

Senator Narcisse Musabeyezu said RAB needs to put into consideration the need for direct impact of research the population.

"I have not heard how this research will, for example, help small-scale farmers to get off-farm employment since we are moving towards a knowledge-based economy," he said.

Senator Perrine Mukankusi said that it was important that the little research that has so far been successful trickles down to the grassroots.

"We need to steer clear of talking about what has been done but instead let the locals benefit. Let's see, for instance, every home with these banana plants, whether they are three or five," she said.

In October last year, Bagabe told MPs that, with effect from 2018, the Government will not buy soya seeds from outside the country and will completely halt importation of wheat by the end of 2019.

Bagabe said the Government was focusing on developing local seed production as a long term measure.

"We have a 2017-2020 Seed System Strategy and we have a timeline. We intend to have completely stopped importing the hybrid seeds but that doesn't mean that we are stopping whoever wants to do it," he said.

At the time, Bagabe said that developing the country's own hybrid takes a reasonable number of years but there were at the time 10 hybrids from their research laboratory at RAB.

Ten varieties are of wheat while four are of soya.

Up until 2016, RAB did not have any research funding.

Today, the institution is a beneficiary of Rwf4.7 bilion that goes to research and, of this, Rwf3.7 billion is from Government, and about 1 billion from externally funded projects.

Meanwhile, Bagabe said this month Cabinet is expected to approve a Ministerial Order that will come up with changes that are expected to motivate researchers.

So far, RAB has 103 scientists; 18 are PhD holders; 22 are pursuing PhD; 86 are technicians, some of whom have masters.

Bagabe said that though the law was gazetted on May 1, 2017, the Cabinet will soon give it the final endorsement before it can come into force.

"The first thing that I took on when I was appointed to RAB was to create some immediate changes that would steer this institution in the right direction. We asked Parliament to help us change the law and it was done. It was gazetted on May 1. Right now, it is yet to come into force because the orders that allow the law to be operationalised and the structure are yet to be approved. However, the Prime Minister requested that it should be on his desk by January 15 before it goes to Cabinet," he told senators.

Bagabe explained that the law would seek to motivate researchers and in the process propel the country towards its goal of being self-reliant.

"The law in place doesn't motivate researchers. They were being treated as any other civil servant. Researchers are like university professors. They are promoted based on performance. At RAB, that wasn't the case," he said.

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