Rwanda: Regional Agric Experts Root for Irrigation

The New Times Kigali Emmanuel Ntirenganya
Displayed with permission from allAfrica.com

About 90 per cent of regional agriculture is rain-fed, which makes it vulnerable to drought, hence threatening the region’s food security, agriculture experts have said.

Speaking on Wednesday at a sub-regional workshop on investments in climate-smart agriculture, in Kigali, the experts called for collaboration between all players to implement sustainable irrigation as one of the means to tackle climate change effects.

The two-day conference, which closed yesterday, was organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

It brought together agriculture experts from 11 eastern african countries.

Climate-smart agriculture consists of various technologies and good farming practices that make agriculture or crops resilient to climate change effects and enhance environmental sustainability.

The experts said that agriculture is the backbone of both regional and Africa’s economy, yet, it is prone to climate change effects.

It’s also prone to shocks causing food insecurity with smallholder farmers hit hardest, they said.

The experts argue that investment in irrigation and other agriculture technologies is still low, calling for significant funding.

Barrack Okoba, a climate smart agriculture expert at FAO, Kenya, said the workshop was intended to explore ways through which countries within the region can develop strategies to raise resources and investments in climate-smart agriculture.

But, he noted, that before they raise money, they have to understand the issues that are pertinent and need to be addressed in the region in regards to climate change.

On the importance of the agriculture sector on the region’s economy, Moses Marwa, Principal Agriculture Economist at East African Community Secretariat, said that agriculture accounts for almost 32 per cent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And, in terms of employment, it accounts for about 80 per cent.

It also accounts for 50 percent of the raw materials for the region’s industrial sector, such as sugar, coffee and tea.

However, Marwa said, the region is facing declining agriculture yields owing to ecosystems that are being degraded through deforestation and other hazards.

« All this contributes to the region being unable to cope with the adverse effects of climate change, » he said.

« This is made worse by the fact that 90 per cent of agriculture in our region is rain-fed. So, all these factors make it imperative to pursue smart-climate agriculture in EAC, » he noted.

For the case of Rwanda, Innocent Nzeyimana, Head of Land Husbandry, Irrigation and Mechanisation Department at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), said irrigation schemes were largely being implemented by the government, although the private sector has started to join in the effort.

He cited investors who created a company called BRAMIN (Bralirwa and MINIMEX Ltd) and are irrigating crops on about 500 hectares of land.

He said there are other investors coming onboard, partnering with people to carry out irrigation in Nyagatare District of Eastern Province.

Under small-scale irrigation schemes, the government subsidises 50 per cent of the irrigation equipment for land that is not more than 10 hectares.

About 45,000 hectares are being irrigated in the country, with a target of 100,000 hectares in 2020.

Okoba encouraged investors in the area of irrigation, saying they can cushion farmers by adopting climate smart practices, adding that the irrigation being promoted is the one that uses less water but has high productivity. »

Eshete Dejen, an expert in agriculture at Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), said climate change, disasters and droughts are more of regional events that need collaboration to address.

He called for more investments in agriculture technologies, noting that the region has big potential in terms of natural resources, including water resources.

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