Agriculture Summit Opens in Kigali

7 Sep 2020

The Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) will hold its 10th annual general conference from tomorrow amid growing concerns by critics that it has failed to half hunger and reduce poverty as it had pledged.

The four-day meeting, the first to be held virtually owing to the global Covid-19 pandemic, runs up to Friday in Kigali, Rwanda.

The summit themed ‘Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent – Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa’ is expected to attract 2,000 delegates.

The extravaganza comes amid increased criticism of consistent lack of transparency and accountability from an initiative that has received about $1 billion in funding for the last 16 years.

Billed as the sure-fire answer to food insecurity in Africa, the initiative was mooted through a partnership between the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation to jumpstart a comprehensive agricultural transformation on the continent.

The US, UK and German governments are the other financiers of AGRA.

AGRA’s goal was to double yields and incomes and improve food security for at least 30 million farming households in Africa by 2021. Subsidised synthetic fertiliser and affordable hybrid seeds were the driving force.

But even as the high-powered conference starts, AGRA will be required to make available assessment of its progress towards achieving the goals in its 2017-2021 strategic plan and any survey data from its own monitoring and evaluation at country level.

The summit comes up on the backdrop of ‘False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)’ which found “very little evidence that AGRA is benefiting 30 million smallholder households, and that it is likely benefiting large-scale commercial farmers, mostly men, rather than smallholder women farmers.”

The study was undertaken by a coalition of German and African civil society organiSations backed by research from Tufts University in the US.

The data portrays what the researchers described as weak yield increases of just 18 percent over 12 years and a disturbing evidence of worsening food insecurity situation across AGRA countries, with a 31 percent increase in the number of undernourished people in AGRA’s 13 target countries since 2006, the year of inception of the initiative.

Staple crops

The study, published in July, found that in nine of AGRA’s 13 countries the number of undernourished people increased and in four of those, yields for staple crops decreased.

Timothy Wise, the lead researcher and senior advisor at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), notes that the results the alliance has so far achieved are not commensurate to its funding.

“We used national data to see what evidence there was of progress towards these goals now that we are in 2020. I contacted AGRA early on asking if they would share their own data on progress. They initially said they would but then stopped responding to my requests,” Mr Wise, a research fellow at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment, says.

AGRA lauds its success, indicating that since inception 22.6million smallholder farmers have been reached, 119 African seed companies established, 44,000 agro-dealers supported.

The data further shows that AGRA has accrued $553 million in investments, sold commodities valued at $554 million through small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and has had $47 million private sector investments leveraged, among others.

It all looks like quite an achievement indeed. But critics such as Dr Wise say it is not reflected on the ground.

Other critics accuse AGRA of trying to increase crop yields through methods used by large-scale industrial farms in wealthy countries.

They say most farmers cannot afford AGRA’s expensive recommended commercial seeds and fertilisers and charge that the idea that a small-scale farmer with double yield has twice as much money in their pocket doesn’t make sense.

False Promises

Amid these contentions, Andrew Cox, the chief of staff and strategy at AGRA, says the alliance “will do a full evaluation against its targets and results” at the end of 2021.

He also dismisses the False Promises study, and in particular Dr Wise, its lead author, saying he has “a history of writing unfounded allegations and uncorroborated reports about AGRA and its work.”

“AGRA is an African institution that is open to critique and happy to share information with researchers and media,” Mr Cox said.

But Mr Wise challenges AGRA to respond substantially to the findings because the public and funders deserved it.

“What evidence is there that productivity has increased? What evidence shows that such productivity increases have increased farmer incomes significantly? What evidence is there that food insecurity has been reduced?”

 

10 key highlights of Rwanda’s 2020/21 budget

23 Jun 2020

Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Uzziel Ndagijimana Monday presented the final budget to the lawmakers in which the government will spend Rwf3.2 trillion in the 2020/2021 fiscal year.

The government spending will be aligned with the economic recovery plan for the next two to three years, and the country’s seven-year transformation strategy for 2017-2024.

All MPs present, including senators and deputies, approved the finance bill.

Below are the key highlights from the budget;

1. Tax revenue to reduce

Total tax revenue collections for Treasury have been projected to reach Rwf1,421.4 billion in the fiscal year 2020/21, lower than the Rwf1,569 billion projected in the revised budget financial year 2019/20 by Rwf147.6 billion.

The decline in the tax revenue collection is due to the current economic situation with the effect of the pandemic Covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shuttered the economies of all countries, and Rwanda has advised several measures including the closure of borders which limited the fast spread of the virus.

“This, however, took hit on many of our economic activities as many people were grounded at home,” Ndagijimana told MPs.

He said the government will resort to increasing external borrowing to respond to the economic effects of the pandemic in the medium term.

Total domestic resources are estimated at Rwf1,969.8 billion, which accounts for 60.5 per cent of the total budget.

External resources are projected at Rwf1,275.9 billion that accounts for 39.3 per cent of the total budget.

2. Development budget

The total expenditure on development projects is projected at Rwf1,298.5 billion, which represents 40 per cent of the total budget.

Domestically financed projects are estimated at Rwf703.4 billion, while externally financed projects are projected at Rwf595.1 billion.

To do this, the government has among other things set aside a package to continue to invest more capital in the Rwanda Development Bank (BRD) to enable it to play an increased role in the expansion of the private sector to accelerate growth.

Some Rwf7.2 billion will be invested in BRD next fiscal year.

3. RwandAir to receives boost

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a big hit on the transport sector and the tourism sector, and RwandAir has been among those key businesses that have felt the impact as travel was halted and countries closed borders.

The Finance Minister said air transport services in Rwanda will reduce by 70 per cent while Foreign Direct Investments (FDIS) will reduce by 62 per cent this year due to the Covid19 pandemic.

Under the approved budget for the next year, the national carrier RwandAir whose operations have been adversely affected by the virus will be financed at Rwf145.1 billion.

4. Job creation prioritised

Government has prioritized job creation and entrepreneurship, among other things, dedicating at least Rwf16 billion to the sector.

Through different government projects, the National Employment Programme and private sector activities, there is a plan to generate at least 205,500 new jobs for Rwandans.

Government will also support 7,560 graduates of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) with startup toolkits to allow them to create their own jobs.

5. SMEs support

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are some of the businesses that have felt the impact of the pandemic, and as such, the government has decided to extend support to 550 SMEs to help them recover.

They will get business advisory services.

At the same time, 50 SMEs and cooperatives will be trained in e-commerce skills.

6. Made-in-Rwanda

The Government’s initiative to support domestic production of goods and services will receive Rwf7 billion. This will particularly enable domestic firms to ensure safety standards of their products.

Some 20 factories will benefit from the budgetary support, allowing them to adopt latest technologies to be able to create new innovations for the local and export markets.

Six export firms in particular will gain support from the Export Growth Fund, allowing them to be competitive at the international market.

The support towards Made in Rwanda is expected to reduce trade deficit, which rose by 17 per cent last year.

7. Rwf243.3 billion for transport

The government allocated Rwf243.3 billion towards accelerating transport projects. This includes construction, rehabilitation and upgrade of national roads.

Feeder roads will be developed and maintained while the demarcation of railway corridors will continue, particularly in districts of Gatsibo, Nyagatare, Nyabihu, Rutsiro, Gakenke and Nyaruguru.

Emergency Mobile Bridge will be acquired while the Rubagabaga and Satinskyi Bridge will be constructed, and four ports will be constructed at Kivu Lake – at Rusizi, Rubavu, Karongi and Nkora.

8. Improving agriculture

Some Rwf122.4 billion has been set aside to increase agricultural productivity through the use of improved agriculture inputs using inorganic fertilizers and improved seeds.

Irrigation projects will be supported including Gabiro Agri-business project (18,00ha), Mpanga (659ha), as well as extending support to disaster hit agriculture activities in Rwamagana, Rurambi, Bugarama, Umuvumba, Gatuna and Kamiranzovu.

Cash crops production for export will be strengthened through increased production of coffee and tea, as well as expropriation for new investments in tea production.

Post-harvest losses will be reduced through establishing new drying shelters and storage facilities, which will enable the government to store 7,000 tons of maize and 3,000 of beans.

9. Social protection package

The government dedicated Rwf129.2 billion under the next fiscal budget to scale up coverage of programmes designed to support vulnerable households.

The budget will enable the government to expand the Vision Umurenge Programme (VUP) to benefit more households across the country

It will also enable the roll out of the revision of Ubudehe categorization and development of social registry to improve efficiency in targeting and coordination of social protection programmes.

Some 541 new houses will be developed for survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, while other 44,822 houses will be built for the extremely poor households.

10. Health, education

The government also allocated a significant share of the funds to the education and health sectors, with each sector getting Rwf492 billion and Rwf261.1 billion respectively.

New hospitals, health centres and health posts such as Nyabikenke Hospital, IRCAD, Munini hospital and mental health day care centre will be constructed, thanks to the health package.

The education package will enable the government to reduce overcrowding in schools and long distances to schools through massive school constructions of new classroom blocks.

The school feeding programme will be expanded to include primary schools, while access to TVET will be increased and ensure absorption of 9-year basic education graduates by constructing and equipping IPRC Huye learning cenTRE

: Julius Bizimungu

New times

 

MPs raise concern as govt cuts agriculture spending

3 Jun 2020

Members of Parliament (MPs) have expressed concerns over the government proposal to slash spending on agriculture by 35 per cent, saying that the move would affect farm productivity.

In proposal to reduce government spending on agriculture is contained in the draft budget for the 2020/21 fiscal year, which will begin on July 1, 2020. Under the draft budget the government plans to spend Rwf90.4 billion on agriculture, which reflects a 35 per cent reduction from the Rwf140.3 billion that the sector was allocated to in the current 2019/2020 fiscal year .

The MPs said on Wednesday that the move will hurt the entire agriculture and livestock value chain.

The MPs made their concerns known on Wednesday, May 27, during budget hearing session where the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources as well as its affiliated agencies explained the government decision.

The session was held through video conferencing.

Irrigation, post-harvest handling, and management of floods especially in marshlands are some of the activities that continue to be affected by funding shortfalls.

Only about 60,000 hectares or less than 5 percent of all the arable land in Rwanda is irrigated, according to data from the Ministry.

According to MP Theogene Munyangeyo, President of Economic Cluster in the Chamber of Deputies, with other sectors severely hit by Covid-19, agriculture has the potential to accelerate the country’s economic recovery by creating jobs and generating incomes for a critical mass of Rwandans.

“After COVID-19 … we should think about how to go far in terms of agriculture and livestock by focusing on export oriented production,” he suggested. “But, the proposed budget does not support that.” He said that the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning should look at ways to make planning and financing mechanisms that adequately advance the sector.

MP Angelique Nyirabazayire said that; “though there are limited resources, more efforts should be invested in agriculture because it is the foundation of economic development for the country and its citizens.” If the marshlands we have in the country are redeveloped, she said, the country can be self-sufficient in terms of food regardless of seasonal changes. MP Annonciata Mukarugwiza said that there is a gap in redevelopment of marshlands, citing the Rurambi Marshland in Bugesera District.

“If a budget does not address the problem in a sustainable manner, that should be carefully examined because it can result in losses for both the government and the residents who have made investment in marshland utilisation,” she said.

Gerardine Mukeshimana, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said that “in the current budget, about Rwf1 billion is being used to raise and rehabilitate the dyke at Rurambi Marshland in order to prevent spilling Akagera waters from destroying people’s farms and crops.”

The Minister pointed out that Rwf900 million additional funding will be added to that (in the coming financial year) to help farmers prepare their farms and carry on farming activities.

MP Speciose Ayinkamiye said that there are farmers who had grown crops in wetlands, but they were destroyed by recent heavy rains which made them incur losses.

Minister Mukeshimana said that the government is working on extending access to the agriculture insurance coverage so that more farmers get protected from future losses stemming from crop damage by natural disasters such as floods. MPs also expressed the need for increasing the national strategic food reserve capacity to help stock sufficient cereals and grains especially for use during scarcity. Underscoring its importance, they said that the domestic food reserve offered food relief during the pandemic.

From May 26-30, 2020, the Standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony is holding budget hearings with all budgetary bodies on their Budget Framework Paper for the year 2020/21 and the Medium Term Expenditure Framework 2020/21-2022/23.

Cover photo by: AgriPoFocus

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

How Rwanda Plans To Save Farmers From Effects Of #COVID-19

17 May 2020

Rwanda has announced a comprehensive economic recovery plan and its implementation starts May up to the end of December in the first phase (2020).

This plan includes two-parts, The first part consists of; Monetary Policy, Fiscal Policy and interventions in specific sectors such as Agriculture, support to Private sector, Infrastructure projects for growth and jobs, Technology and Innovation plus Mining.

The second part is Social Protection Relief and Recovery Plan to #COVID19 (SP-RRP). It aims at fixing the negative effects on the vulnerability of rural and urban households by providing a packaged approach addressing different needs related to the #COVID-19 crisis.

Ever since the country slid into an almost two-month hibernation period under a #COVID-19 lockdown, all sectors of the economy plummeted, causing devastating effects ranging from massive financial loses, business closures and loss of jobs.

As the country reopens back to normal, with some anti #COVID-19 measures still in place until September, government has come up with a plan to help the economy return on its feet.

This recovery plan estimated at a cost of Rwf800 billion aims at guiding the government on required key interventions across different sectors that would provide support to households and boost employment and growth towards recovery.

“As we adopt the recovery plan, we want to address issues of social protection, agriculture. We need to improve productivity, and food security,” said Uzziel Ndagijimana-Minister for Finance and Economic Planning.

How Are farmers Helped?

The country has been experiencing heavy rains that are expected to slow down mid-May and this will lead to transition into the start of a long dry season all through up to almost October.  This means that by now season 2020B is over.

However, before the water in the soils dries up, farmers have an opportunity to plant sweet potatoes and cassava, which are resilient to drought. “The Ministry of Agriculture will provide urea to be used in maize plantations,” according to recovery plan document.

Government also wants farmers to use this period to prepare for season 2020C and says it will provide necessary inputs. Farmers, who are not able to afford seeds and fertilisers, will be supported to access them.

In Season 2020C, Agriculture and Local government ministries will mobilise communities to cultivate all irrigation sites, marshlands and hillsides.

Between July and September- a mostly dry period, the Ministry of Agriculture says it has identified horticulture crops to be considered when valorizing marshland in season C (tomato, onion, eggplant, watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, French beans etc.). These vegetables will be cultivated on 1,833 ha. There is a need of vegetable seeds equivalent to 17,952 kg.

To valorize these marshlands in season C, the identified area will require 18,330 Kg and 366,600 Kg respectively for organic fertilisers and mineral fertilisers.

Sweet potatoes will be cultivated on 1,000 ha. and needs distribution of 42,000 cuttings, 10,000MT of organic fertiliser and 200MT of mineral fertilisers.

2021 Farming Seasons Also Planned For

The recovery plan has detailed arrangements for the 2021A and 2021B seasons. Government has planned that in these seasons it will increase the availability, access and use of inputs (improved seed, fertilizers, lime and water).

On improved seeds, government has a plan of ensuring availability of sufficient quantities of hybrid maize, wheat and soybean seed – and shall be made affordable.

Availability of fertilizers is an important component in realizing good yields in the 2021A and 2021B seasons.

Government says in its economic recovery plan that it will ensure orders and shipment for fertilizers for the 2021 seasons are made on time.

Rwandan farmers under economic categories (Ubudehe 1&2) will receive farm inputs under social protection programs so as to improve their food security situation.

In this recovery plan, farmers are required to use lime. The government says it will ensure there are no delays in procurement and delivery of lime to farmers in need. Small-Scale irrigation programs will receive support too.

According to government, it is projected that the food reserve should store an equivalent of maize and beans for 10% of the population at 2,500Kcal per person per day.

This shall be achieved by increasing resources for National Strategic Reserves to stock food, by supporting the districts to establish their own district food reserves and mobilising farmers to have community stores as well as storage facilities at the household-level.

Story by: Taarifa Rw

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