Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Agric board upbeat on food security


Musabyimana says output will improve soon.
Rwanda is not food insecure, thanks to government’s increased investment in the agriculture sector, an official has said.

Innocent Musabyimana, the deputy director in charge of agricultural extension at the Rwanda Agricultural Board, said the government has invested heavily in farm inputs, land consolidation, fertilisers and extension services, which will ensure enhanced food production. 

“Although food crop production dropped by two per cent, according to last year’s gross domestic product figures, and food inflation has been rising, we are not food insecure. The drop in GDP contribution could have been due to other factors such as the prolonged drought experienced in the second season of the year,” Musabyimana told Business Times.  

The money from the government is channelled through the crop intensification programme, he added.

“Before the project started, 22 districts out of 30 were underperforming, producing about 1.5 tonnes of total food production. However, since 2007, we have been producing four tonnes of maize per year and, in some areas, the output is up to seven tonnes of maize.

According to 2012 gross domestic product figures, food crop output declined from nine per cent in 2009, down to five per cent in 2010 and 2011, and hit a low of three per cent in 2012 despite the sector having a bigger budgetary allocation. 

The government increased the agriculture budget from Rwf67.1b in the 2011/12 fiscal year to Rwf78.3b in the current financial year. Close to Rwf67b was allocated to the agriculture ministry and Rwf9.4b to the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), the optimal centre for food production. 

Musabyimana said despite the challenges, crop production per unit area had increased from 914,587 tonnes in 2010 to 1,019,767 tonnes in 2011. 

He attributed the improvement to government interventions to enhance output, which included promotion of mechanised agriculture. 

“Equally, we have moved from 5kg of inorganic fertiliser usage per hectare to 30kg per hectare and are striving to reach 45kg per hectare. This is why we are confident about food security of the country,” he noted.

Jean de Dieu  Dushimimana, the RAB crop intensification programme extension and mobilisation officer, said the government, through the crop intensification programme, imported a total of 765 tonnes of improved maize and wheat seeds in 2009 and 3,512 in 2010. 

This bolstered production of maize to 432,476 tonnes in 2010 from 166,853 tonnes in 2008 and 633,624 tonnes in 2011. Production of wheat increased from 67,868 tonnes in 2008 to 72,478 tonnes in 2009, 76,573 tonnes in 2010 and 130,938 in 2011. Dushimimana said production of beans went up from 308,563 tonnes in 2008 to 327,729 in 2009, 336,927 tonnes in 2010 and 536,009 tonnes in 2011. 
Cassava output also shot up from 1681,823 tonnes in 2008 to 2,662,010 tonnes in 2011, while that of Irish potatoes rose from 1,161,943 tonnes in 2008 to 2,662,010 tonnes in 2011.

“There is need for private investment in the sector… they (private sector) should partner with us in some of these agriculture programmes. 

“Much as the government is funding agriculture, investment from the private sector remains vital to ensuring enough food for the country,” explained Dushimimana. He said the country has the potential to improve agriculture production from three per cent to 11 per cent within the next five years. 

“However, to hit this target, our budget must be increased, too.”

The number of agriculture co-operatives should also go up from 600 to 1,500 before 2017, a move that will consolidate gains made in enhancing agricultural output, Dushimimana added. 

He estimated the number of agriculture co-operatives to be at between 400 and 600, with each district having at least 15 farmer groups. 

“Our target is to have as many co-operatives as we can to ensure that no farmer is left out,” Dushimiimana said. 

Agriculture provides employment for about 79.5 per cent of the country’s labour force and contributes one third of the GDP. It also generates more than 45 per cent of the country’s export revenue, according to official figures.


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