Smallholder women farmers call for more support to boost agriculture
By: EMMANUEL NTIRENGANYA, THE NEWTIMES
Women farmers have called for further interventions from all stakeholders to ensure challenges that still inhibit agriculture sector are addressed to empower them economically.
They made the call Tuesday in Nyanza District during a workshop that brought together representatives of women farmers from Musanze, Gisagara, Nyanza, Nyaruguru and Karongi districts with ActionAid, an international organisation that focuses on fighting poverty and injustice.
The participants were drawn from 320 women farming cooperatives that work with ActionAid International, Rwanda’s Public Financing in Agriculture (PFA) project, which operates in the five districts.
According to government statistics, agriculture accounts for a third of the GDP and constitutes the main economic activity for rural folks, especially women.Agriculture generates more than 70 per cent of the country’s export revenue.
However, there is concern that although women constitute the biggest proportion of farming population, their farming is still undeveloped.The issue of diseases and pests that affect different crops including potatoes, maize, beans, banana and cassava, has been cited as a crosscutting issue for female farmers and they said concerted efforts are needed to solve the problem, which they say has at times overwhelmed the agronomists.
“Further interventions and stringent measures are needed from all concerned players to tackle the issue of ‘mysterious’ diseases that are affecting crops like cassava because it is a big threat to agriculture,” said Alphonsine Kankindi, a farmer from Murindi Sector in Karongi.
Farmers cited lack of means to afford irrigation as a big hindrance to agriculture productivity as their crops dry up during the dry season.They also requested for water reservoirs to help them harvest rain water.
“If we get tanks, our crop and soil will be protected and we can make use of such water to irrigate crops during the dry season,” said Marie Grâce, from Nyanza.
Jeanne d’Arc Uwamahoro, from Musanze, called for support in value addition to agricultural produce as one of the efforts to address the challenge of low prices.
According to Eduard Karangwa, PFA project manager, Actionaid International, Rwanda says there is a need to increase funding in agriculture sector to ensure women benefit from it.
“Women have been hindered by lack of access to finance. We have to ensure that the national budget allocated to agriculture is enough and it has reached rural female farmers who want to develop,” Karangwa said, urging the private sector play its role.
Karangwa said, through PFA, ActionAid empowers women through capacity building, conducting research to see how female farmers are performing and advocating for them to ensure their welfare.
PFA project was initiated in response to the Maputo Declaration on agriculture, which agitated for the increment of state allocation toward agriculture to at least 10 per cent of the National Budget.
In the 2013 declaration, African heads of state and government observed that 30 per cent of the continent’s population was chronically and severely undernourished; that the continent had become a net importer of food; and that it is was the largest recipient of food aid in the world.Rwanda has made strides in implementing the Maputo Declaration as over 13 per cent of its Budget is allocated toward agriculture, officials say.Figures from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda show that agriculture sector registered a 5 per cent growth in 2014 compared to 4.6 per cent in 2013.
Under the 2015/16 Budget, Rwf120.6bn was allocated to agriculture sector compared to Rwf91bn in the last fiscal year. Women farmers said the current budget should take into consideration their challenges so that they actively contribute to the development of the country.