The East African (Nairobi): "The Story of a Food Secure Nation"
Less than three years ago Rwanda put into action a plan aimed at increasing food security. Since then food production has steadily increased at a rate of 16 percent per year, an incredible accomplishment compared with the rate of growth previous to the nationwide effort of only 0.7 percent. Today the country has developed a strong agricultural base which has “bid food deficits goodbye.”
The initiative began with the aim to provide one cow per family in 2006. The cows made significant improvements in the lives of many rural individuals and families by adding additional nourishment, natural fertilizer, and a little income to their homes. The government also enacted policy which would halt land fragmentation and encouraged the merging of smaller farms in order to make the “best use of fertiliser, improved seeds and labour.” Government management of the sector was improved through the reorganization and investment of homegrown agricultural policy and research. These policies were followed by additional programs like the “Crop Intensification Project” which began “distributing high-yielding seed varieties and fertiliser across the country” in 2008.
Of course nature has played its role, however, Rwanda’s concentration on improving agriculture has certainly paid off. Through the distribution of better seeds and training on better farming techniques the country has seen the production of its principle crops – maize, cassava, beans and bananas – soar. The calculated increase in the yields of these crops is at “99 per cent for maize, 43 per cent for wheat 28 per cent for rice and sweet potatoes…[as well as] an 11 per cent increase in bean[s].” The sustained progress of the agricultural sector has even ushered in international development and investment.
However, these increases in food production have not come without sacrifice. Rwanda is “one of the only five countries on the continent that have committed the recommended minimum of 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture.” Nevertheless, Rwanda’s success is a wonderful example to others that food security can be achieved by a developing nation.
An article from the BBC on a dairy farm in Rwanda: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10131793
A video on the ‘One Cow’ Initiative in Rwanda from ‘Action Aid’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxvuQqfmMSY
A collection of academic resources from the ‘Rwanda Food Security Research Project’ of USAID and Michigan State University http://www.aec.msu.edu/fs2/rwanda/index.htm
A newspaper article on development in Rwanda: http://allafrica.com/stories/201101190336.html
1. Do you think this type of progress in food security is possible anywhere? Is Rwanda a special case?
2. What do you think are the main reasons why this initiative to increase agricultural yields succeeded? The actions of Rwandan government? Individual farmers? The weather?
3. Do you think that spending 10 per cent of a national budget on agriculture is too much? Is it too little? Why do you think more countries are not spending this ‘recommended minimum’?