A new Rwf900 million project has been launched to help amplify the voice of farmers in agricultural policy formulation, and budgeting, while ensuring fair prices for their produce.
Under the initiative, farmers will be able to set up forums that help them raise their voices, empowering them to participate in addressing the challenges that they face in their agriculture and livestock related activities.
Dr Charles Murekezi, Director General in Charge of Agriculture Development at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the project will benefit over 30,000 vulnerable farmer households in the first and second Ubudehe categories in seven districts.
Funded by the European Union, the project also seeks to strengthen 14 farmers' cooperatives.
"The initiative aims at developing the whole agriculture value chain where farmers' voices must be considered in policies, budgeting, and getting fair prices for their harvest among many other issues over a period of three years. We chose the districts to benefit because they have high levels of malnutrition," he said.
The initiative was informed by the 2015 report on food security, which showed that 48 per cent of the households in Rutsiro were food insecure, 31 per cent Burera in District, 22 per cent Rubavu District, 12 per cent in Gatsibo, 24 per cent in Ruhango District, 10 per cent in Kayonza District and 7 per cent in Rulindo District.
He stressed that the initiative comes as government moves to implement the fourth Agriculture Transformation Strategy (PSTA4) designed to increase farm productivity and promote value addition to food.
The six-year plan, starting from 2018 until 2024, will cost Rwf2.7 trillion.
"Agriculture is at the centre of national development. We are seeking to reduce food imports and increase food exports to Africa and beyond. This cannot be possible without looking at the whole agriculture chain and identify those districts with many vulnerable families so as to reduce poverty levels," Murekezi said.
Jean Paul Munyakazi, the Chairman of Imbaraga Farmers Organisation, said that farmers are facing many issues that need to be addressed once their role is enhanced.
"For instance, farmers get harvest but they lack market due to lower prices. They are counting losses yet they have invested a lot of money and energy because they are exploited by middlemen who provide lower prices.
"We need to eliminate such challenges and also reinforce cooperatives to be able to set fair prices and also add value to their produce through small and big agro-processing industries. Farmers see themselves implementing policies yet they were never involved in the planning," he said.
The European Union Ambassador to Rwanda, Nicola Bellomo, said that the project is one of the partnerships between the EU and Rwanda aimed at promoting agriculture and spur the country's development.
"The European Union is proud to support this process in partnership with Rwanda but also through the civil society organisations involved in agriculture and farmers' cooperatives," he said.