Rwanda banks on tech to get 18% households out of food insecurity

Experts in the agriculture sector have called for robust efforts to increase production and availability of nutritious food following revelations that over 18 per cent of the country’s households face food insecurity.

The solutions, experts say, could help to eliminate stunting rate that is currently at 33 percent and achieve zero hunger by 2025 in the country.

The challenges and game-changing solutions were shared on Tuesday in a virtual National Food Systems Dialogue held ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, which will take place in September.

Jean Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said that identifying challenges and potential game changing actions will increase the production and availability of nutritious food, increase income and purchasing power of food, minimize food loss among others.

Among the presented challenges that still inhibit agriculture production include unreliable agro-inputs, inadequate irrigation, land degradation, soil fertility loss due to erosion, low value addition to agriculture and livestock products as well as low investments by private sector in the sector.

The low level of agricultural finance, climate change and insufficient uptake of modern technologies and livestock insurance are also affecting agriculture production.

The figures by the ministry indicated agriculture financing is only at 5.27 percent as only 28 per cent of farmers practice irrigation on 63,742 hectares.

Advanced seeds were used by 35.5 per cent of farmers and 34.2 per cent used fertilisers for 2020 season A while agricultural mechanisation use is at 27 per cent.

Due to the challenges, crops yields are low considering the current production of maize 1.46 tonnes per hectare, 0.83 tonnes of beans per hectare, and 9.04 tonnes of Irish potatoes per hectare among others, figures show.

Game changing solutions

According to experts, adoption of production-enhancing technologies should be incentivized while innovative mechanisms for financing smallholder farmers and insurance uptake need to be brought on board in addition to providing a conducive business environment for private sector investment.

Valere Nzeyimana, an expert in land, water and agriculture at FAO, said that the government should promote small-scale irrigation by promoting appropriate irrigation technologies easily used on different topographies of arable land.

“Some technologies include gravity fed irrigation, low pressure bucket drip irrigation systems for small scale producers, along with low tech greenhouses built out of bamboo or other local materials,” he said.

David Spielman a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute who leads the Rwanda Strategy Support Program said: “Technologies in agriculture need intensive research and analysis before they go to scale to ensure that they work for the right people in the right context and in a cost-effective manner.”

Insurance, as any other new technology, he added, needs to have systems in place to assess consumers’ satisfaction on both the price and the quality of the services received, with the aim to incrementally improve the services.

Otto Vianney Muhinda, an agricultural expert added in order to ensure production and availability of nutritious food, there is need for promoting small livestock especially rabbit, pork and chicken rearing among other solutions.

“If for instance small scale farmers rear chickens, they will get both eggs and meat which is nutritious food and also generate income when they sell to market,” he said.

This could supplement different crops for food including cultivation and consumption habits of fruits and vegetables that need to be promoted to combat chronic malnutrition and stunting.

“Behavior change towards consumption of nutritious food is needed,” he said.

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