Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Students from George Washington University visit to study Rwanda’s agriculture sector

Students from George Washington University visit to study Rwanda’s agriculture sector
Students of George Washington University (GWU) are visiting Rwanda from May 17, 2013 for several weeks to study the agriculture sector.
They will be using Rwanda as their specific focus on their class projects, concentrating on various areas involving agriculture.
Among others access to agricultural finance, mushroom production, marketing issues, such as packaging and export, banana wine, pineapple juice, coffee….
Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has helped facilitate their visit by setting up teams, pairing George Washington University students with entrepreneurs of the country.
Naturally, the group visited the Ministry of Agriculture & Animal Resources in the hopes of gaining valuable knowledge and insight from Minister Agnes Kalibata, about their focus subjects in the sector. Minister Kalibata provided an overview of what kinds of issues Rwanda must deal with within their agriculture sector, and what goals the Ministry has, including food security for all.
“Since Rwanda’s average smallholder farmer only owns about .7 hectares on average, and we have a mountainous, hilly terrain, we have to work extra hard to be productive.
Our small amount of land in comparison to many other African countries puts us at a disadvantage, but also gives us an advantage in terms of management,” said Minister Kalibata, as she gave a preview of what challenges Rwanda faces.
Minister Kalibata also went into detail about MINAGRI’s Girinka Program, also known as One Cow per Family Program, one of the biggest achievements and prized programs of the Ministry.
“One Cow per Family really deals with Rwanda-specific problems. Passing cows is seen as a bond of trust and community, and we built the program on those values.
By passing cows between neighbors, it was a way to also build back the trust that was lost during the genocide. Not only that, but the program really fit into the socioeconomic parameters that we were looking for,” Minister Kalibata said.
Hundreds of people were able to benefit from the Girinka program, generating income, dairy production, and nutrition for all those who participated. It is well known that the dairy sector has grown tremendously, largely due to One Cow per Family and its lasting impact.
The students had the opportunity to ask the Minister various questions about the Ministry, Rwanda’s agricultural activities, and programs. Topics dealing with access to agricultural financing, farmers’ social identities, government mandates on farmers, and communication efforts were discussed and given insight to by the Minister.
The George Washington University group were able to explore Rwanda on the ground, attending Ntende Farmers’ Day in Gatsibo District, as well as visit a One Cow per Family beneficiary.
The Agriculture Park in the Free Trade Zone was also on their agenda, a constructed area to initially attract the private sector and allow access to markets for farmers.
They were guided by Theogene Rutagwenda, Director General of Animal Resources, and Jolly Dusabe, RSSP Coordinator.“It’s important for the students to visit something like Ntende Farmers’ Day, so they can witness the group dynamics of farmers in cooperatives, see in person the cross-connecting issues within rural areas, and how economic empowerment affects those issues,” stated Minister Kalibata.


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