Rwanda: Agriculture as a main driver of poverty reduction and exports


Agriculture remains the backbone of the economy and continues to significantly contribute to poverty alleviation as Rwanda aspires to become a middle-income country by 2020.


Whereas there has been a steady decline in agriculture employment share since 2012 reflecting increase in of farm jobs, agriculture still commands 33% of GDP and employs 72.4% of the population. Since 2005, the sector has grown at an average of 5%.


Under the first Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), Rwanda increased its agriculture funding by 13% of the total budget, reformed its crop intensification programs by focusing on land consolidation, use of fertilizers and improved seeds.


On top of that government invested significantly in basic factors of production including terracing and consolidating more than 850,000 hectares of land in five years, increased land under irrigation from 11,000 hectares in 2006 to 25,000 hectares by 2013 and increased farm mechanized operations from 3% in 2000 to 13% in 2013.


These reforms have significantly improved yields. For instance, Maize yields have increased more than six fold to 4000 kg/ha in 2012 while wheat yields 2.5 times during the same period.


Under the Second Economic and Poverty reduction strategy (EDPRS2) agriculture is expected to have a high impact on poverty reduction.  It is expected to grow by 7%, constitute 27.7% share of GDP and significantly contribute towards the targeted 28% export growth.


As Rwanda marches on to vision 2020, future agriculture growth will be led by food and export crop as well as livestock which are expected to reduce poverty by 20 percent points in 10 years.  This will be achieved through scaling up of irrigation, supporting privatization, use of modern farm models and developing rural infrastructure such as feeder roads and post-harvest facilities.


While tea and coffee have dominated Rwanda’s agricultural exports, a shift towards high value agriculture exports is currently underway. Government has focused on developing non-traditional sectors including horticulture, floriculture, stevia, starch, beef and dairy processing  as well as a joint venture baby food manufacturing which has a combined potential of yielding  approximately US$ 250 million export revenue annually.


Government has laid strategies to attract private sector participation in agriculture development. They include increased private credit to agriculture at all levels, such as identifying lucrative opportunities and actively engaging the private sector, increase insurance uptake, and encourage high value public private partnerships and encouraging collaboration between farmers and private sector.


Rwanda is presently hosting the second Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) meeting in Kigali.



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