A US $8.4 million project, under which several innovative farming methods will be tested, is set to benefit at least 75,000 Rwandans living in rural areas, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has said.
"This project will aid the [Rwandan] Ministry of Agriculture's efforts to transform subsistence farming into market-oriented agriculture," Cyril Enweze, the IFAD vice-president, said on Thursday.
He was speaking at the IFAD headquarters in Rome where he signed a $8.2 million loan agreement for the project with the minister of state for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Monique Nsanzabaganwa.
IFAD is a specialised UN agency dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries.
According to a statement IFAD issued from Rome, the Rwandan project is being supported by the loan and a $200,000 IFAD grant, with cofinancing from Britain's Department for International Development, and the Government of the Netherlands.
Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans would benefit from the project under which innovative farming and livestock practices would be tested; the capacity of farmers associations and local government to deliver services and interact with central government offices strengthened; and a knowledge management system established to share technical innovations with farmers nationwide.
"IFAD's support helped the government of Rwanda to ensure that their strategy to transform agriculture truly reflected the needs of rural poor people," Enweze said.
Agriculture contributes 42 percent of Rwanda's gross domestic product and employs 90 percent of the nation's estimated 8 million population.
IFAD said the seven-year "Support Project for the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture" responds to a request by the Rwandan government to put some of the elements of their national strategy into action. The project would eventually contribute to a sector-wide approach to agriculture in the country.
Rwanda has favourable climate and soil to grow rice, but yields remain low. Under the project, IFAD said, farmers would be able to intensify rice production in marshlands by controlling water levels and sowing times, adopting improved tools and speeding weed control and harvesting by planting in rows.
It said hedges would be planted around farming plots on at least 5,000ha of land, using shrubs livestock could eat. Hedging prevents erosion and controls animal grazing, and the animals' droppings fertilise the soil.
The project would also introduce a credit system for the purchase of 1,000 improved breed dairy cows, 3,000 sheep and goats, and 800 pigs, helping farmers to increase incomes and improve nutrition, especially of children.
IFAD said community innovation centres in each district would promote information sharing between farmers, extension workers and local officials, including by promoting field visits and offering training. It added that reports from these centres would feed into a nationwide information management system on best practices.
Successful innovations would then be replicated elsewhere in the country, IFAD said.
[Rwandan government's poverty reduction programme: www.minecofin.gov.rw]
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