Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Rwanda: Farmers’ Involvement in District Planning Increasing Food Production

Rwanda: Farmers’ Involvement in District Planning Increasing Food ProductionRwanda: Farmers’ Involvement in District Planning Increasing Food Production

Rwanda is a small landlocked country in East Africa, despite positive progress in development, internal and external economic downside risks have been increasing and employment remains characterized by agriculture, informality and low earnings.

According to a World Bank survey, in 2011, about 70 percent of workers were principally employed in agriculture, with the remaining 30 percent engaged in non-farm activities.

Farm self-employment or people working on their own on their family’s farm, accounted for almost 60 percent of employment, followed by farm wage employment, which accounted for 12 percent; as result, increasing earnings from agriculture remains the most direct way to improve economic conditions for the bulk of the population.

Despite this, lack of involvement of farmers in coming up with performance contracts (imihigos)- details goals on governance, justice, economic and social indicators-at the district level is affecting food production.

However, a project carried out by Transparency International Rwanda (TI Rwanda) in Nyanza and Kayonza Districts has proven that farmers’ participation in such planning is crucial to improve food production.

In early 2017, TI Rwanda collaborated with two other civil society groups, Imbaraga (Federation of farmers and pastoralists of Rwanda) and SDA-IRIBA (Social Development associations), both with long experience in rural development, to bridge the gap between farmers and officials.

TI Rwanda set up a series of forums among farmers and officials in Kayonza district, Eastern province, and Nyanza district in southern province with the aim of helping farmers proactively identify their priorities and needs, and to improve interactions with district agriculture specialists.

The training by TI Rwanda boosted the farmers’ confidence; now instead of implementing orders they are involved in the decision-making and planning of their own projects.

Before, citizens did not have any understanding of the processes of the district performance contract, and thus acted very passively.

Today, citizens actively take part in their district planning team, especially farmers, who decide what to grow on their land, whereas the district technical team assists with technical advice.

Sylvestre Munyampara is the representative of farmers’ cooperative ‘Urumuri rw’abahinzi’ (light of farmers), which operates in ‘Inganzo’ wetland in Busasamana sector, Nyanza district.

“We now grow maize, vegetables and potatoes according to seasons, which was never allowed before, because the district plan forced us to grow soybeans and the harvest was never satisfying. Now that we choose by ourselves what to grow, the production increases every year,” Munyampara said.

Nicodem Rugerimisare is the spokesperson of the farmers’ cooperatives in Nyanza district; he explains how the training changed their mindset and enabled them to reclaim their rights.

“Back then, the district planning team used to tell us what to grow, but soon after the TI Rwanda intervention, we started to express our needs towards our local leaders. Now Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) tests the seeds before we grow them,” Rugerimisare said.

About the project

In 2017, the global partnership for social accountability (GPSA), a World Bank program that supports collaborative social accountability projects around the world, aiming to expand opportunity for civil society to work with government to solve development problems and fight poverty, awarded a grant to TI-Rwanda.

The project was to increase the farmers ‘ownership of agricultural development through their effective participation in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of the imihigo, to deepen cooperation between civil society organizations and government officials at the district level, and to integrate lessons learned from two pilot districts (Nyanza and Kayonza) into the agricultural sector policy design at the district and national levels.

A TI Rwanda report states that through GPSA grant, they focused attention on policy planning, monitoring and evaluation of local and national agricultural development plans in two districts, using social accountability tools in the form of citizen report cards (CRC), monitoring and capacity building of civil society and public servants.

Across the targeted area, the project trained 7,476 farmers, 51 percent of whom are women, to participate in the district’s agricultural planning cycle. Through this training, local farmers were empowered to shape the district’s planning and thus inform a national policy ultimately to their increased benefit.

To measure progress on this, TI Rwanda used CRCs that farmers could use to indicate their satisfaction with the performance contract (Imihigo). Between 2019 and 2020, satisfaction with participation in Imihigo already increased from 53 percent to 62.81 percent while farmers’ satisfaction with their participation in the evaluation of Imihigo increased from 49.2 percent to 62.2 percent.

The local leaders accepted the challenge

Théogene Mugabonake, Director of Agriculture and natural resources in Nyanza district, affirms that the involvement of farmers in the planning resulted in an increased production, which attracted buyers from other districts.

Mugabonake says that the farmers expressed their opinion and the planning team allowed them to grow what they think would result in a good harvest.

“The planning team now approaches farmers and decides together what is to be planted next. The farmer becomes the base of choice and strongly influences the decision-makers,” explained Mugabonake.

“When officials are organizing meetings in the agriculture sector, they now invite us and request that we come with farmers’ representatives to hear their voices,” said GPSA project Manager in Nyanza district, Théodose Mbonigaba, of SDA-IRIBA.

“At the start of the project, farmers worried about criticizing local officials, but after several meetings with them, they do not.”

He added that the project’s early positive results have earned attention from Rwanda Agriculture Board, and could help farmers meet not only their annual performance contracts, but also longer-term goals of Rwanda’s vision.

However, even though the farmers are now participating in imihigo, their needs are not necessarily always prioritized, because imihigo is planned based on national priorities.

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