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February 27, 2009

Food production in Rwanda rose by 16% in 2008

Favourable weather conditions, improved seeds and better crop husbandry combined to raise food production in Rwanda last year by 16 percent, boosting food security, a government official said.

The governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, Fran├žois Kanimba, said agricultural growth had rebounded to 15 percent in 2007, up from 0.7 percent in 2006.

"The good performance of the agricultural sector is mainly attributed to the government's bold move of implementing the green revolution programme," he said in the capital, Kigali.

The favourable weather experienced countrywide throughout 2008 was the main factor, boosting food production for the first time in four years.

Kanimba said Rwanda's policy to address the effects of climate change had started paying off.

In the past couple of years, Rwanda has implemented aggressive programmes aimed at halting the effects of climate change, including preserving wetlands and forests as well as a countrywide tree-planting programme.

The government has also been training farmers to adopt better farming methods to protect the environment.

According to the Rwanda National Institute of Statistics, the country produces mainly maize, cassava, beans and bananas.

In 2008, the government, under its Crop Intensification Project, distributed at least 10,000T of high-yielding seed varieties across the country, and coupled with improved farming methods, food production started improving.

In most areas, farmers are being discouraged from operating small and fragmented farmlands and instead are being encouraged to go for large-scale commercial farming, a practice that has registered considerable success in the maize sector.

Data from Rwanda's Agricultural Development Authority indicates that in 2008, average yields of maize per acre reached a record 7T.

Gumisiriza Hamson, a local farmer in Western Province, said he harvested his biggest maize yield of 10 tonnes from his 0.6ha in 2008, more than enough to sustain his family. He attributed this success to the use of fertilizer, favourable weather conditions as well as communal cultivation. "I joined a group of 15 other farmers to cultivate maize and the harvest was very good," he said.

Rwanda is trying to discourage land fragmentation and farmers are encouraged to merge farmlands for better yields.

With support from development partners, agriculture is expected to improve further. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has been funding several agricultural projects.

The IFC funds the Rwanda chapter of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which has been instrumental in addressing the effects of climate change.

In January, the IFC announced it would double investment in agriculture sectors across Africa in 2010 to $468 million from $189 million in 2009.

According to Rwanda's statistics institute, increased food production in 2008 led to an improvement in the daily consumption of kilo-calories to 2,176, compared with the 2,100 globally recommended daily requirement.


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