Rwanda’s food system could benefit a lot as the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) summit will focus on identifying priorities and gaps, mobilizing resources, and catalyzing innovative solutions to support countries’ efforts to address food insecurity, according to Jean Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary at the ministry of agriculture and animal resources.
Rwanda will host the 12th annual summit from September 5 to September 9, 2022, under the theme: Grow. Nourish. Reward-Bold actions for resilient food systems.
Musabyimana said that the summit will be a platform for countries to showcase their leadership and strategies in promoting the food system and elevate the coordinated African voice on climate action by outlining the challenges and identifying the country-led solutions and pathways.
“The countries, researchers, and development partners will be taking stock of achievements in agriculture development and Rwanda is set to benefit because countries will be learning from one another by sharing experiences,” he said.
This year’s summit will be held against the backdrop of the just concluded UN food system summit which took place in September last year.
“It called for action to address food insecurity by promoting the food system. Africa’s position paper on food systems was prepared and we will discuss it during the AGRF summit to see how countries can collaborate to put in practice the actions for addressing food insecurity,” he said.
Mobilizing finance for projects
Musabyimana said that Rwanda has designed flagship projects that could help boost food systems explaining that the summit will an opportunity to mobilize financing.
“The summit be a platform to sensitize partners to strengthen food systems and address food insecurity on the African continent. Investments will be mobilized so that countries be able to implement different projects to develop agriculture and livestock in Africa,” he said.
Musabyimana said that Rwanda is also running many successful projects that could be showcased at the summit.
“For instance, in Rwanda, there is a private-partnership food processing project implemented by African Improved Foods (AIF) that can help end malnutrition in Africa if expanded.
The project also transforms farmers’ lives as the factory buys maize and soybean harvest. The project will soon start to also buy milk. It is a big market for farmers while producing improved foods and creates thousands of jobs,” he said.
He said that Rwanda is also working with the Rockefeller Foundation and World Food Programme to fortify and add vitamins in maize grains to produce nutritious flour explaining that such projects need to be showcased.
Another project, he said, that produces animal feeds rich in proteins for poultry and pigs by using insects can be presented for funding to enhance them as it can be a solution for the whole continent.
The Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) is working with other actors in the livestock sector on research on the potential use of black soldier flies (BSF) for affordable protein-rich animal feed to replace animal feeds from soybeans.
The official said Rwanda is ready to make use of the Dealroom to seek finance for different agriculture projects.
The Agribusiness Dealroom is a matchmaking platform that convenes stakeholders from the entire ecosystem to facilitate partnerships and investments in African agriculture.
It specifically supports governments and SMEs with access to finance and partnership opportunities.
The Dealroom is expected to annually attract over 800 companies, 15 government delegations, and 150 public and private investors exploring a wide range of investment opportunities.
The Deal platform showcases SMEs looking for investment opportunities, investors looking to invest in the agriculture sector, and government-led investment opportunities for both private sector investors and large institutional investors.
“We have projects like Gabiro project which we have been taking to the Dealroom to get investors,” he said.
Gabiro agribusiness hub project—located in Nyagatare and Gatsibo district was developed to cater to the country’s food security needs, and offset the trade balance where imports still outstrip exports.
The project also aims to develop an advanced agricultural eco-system and modern value chain with advanced water infrastructure, innovative irrigation systems, high-value agro-processing operations, and other agrotech activities across the value chain.
“We have more ongoing agriculture businesses ready for investment. These include the Gako Beef project to produce meat and supply it to both local and export markets. Other projects include one by Bella Flowers Company which grows and exports high-quality roses and it is looking for expansion. There is also Huye animal feed plant among others,” he said.
He said that one of the projects that need financing to run includes the one to construct the Kigali wholesale market for fresh produce.
Musabyimana said that the summit will also help to mobilize experts, financing institutions, agribusiness companies, and research companies so that they help to seek solutions to challenges affecting the agriculture and livestock sector.
“The summit is a mobilization and advocacy tool to mobilize resources and investments,” he said.
Food security status and Food systems gamer changers
The PS said that the outcomes from the summit could support Rwanda’s efforts to achieve zero hunger targets.
Rwanda seeks to achieve zero hunger by 2025 in line with the 2014 Malabo Declaration, through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
“The latest survey shows that over 81 percent of Rwandan population are food secure. Food security means the availability and accessibility of food,” he said.
Musabyimana said that there are several food systems game changers that have been mapped to ensure zero hunger and food security which need funding to be executed emphasizing that they should be focused on during the discussions at the AGRF summit.
These include nutritious food programs, food loss, and waste management, inclusive markets and nutritious food value chains, sustainable and resilient food production systems, inclusive innovative financing and investment, and effective mainstreaming of youth and women in food systems.
“There are different nutritious food programs such as producing fortified foods and procuring nutritious food targeting Early childhood development centers, school feeding, and social protection. We target nutrient-rich food producers with an emphasis on poultry, eggs, small indigenous fish species, milk and other dairy products, vegetables, fruits and bio-fortified food staples, flour fortification among others,” he said.
To produce nutritious food, he added there is also a Partnership for Resilient and Inclusive Small Livestock Markets (PRISM) project to develop the livestock value chain to ensure increased incomes but also affordable meat from small livestock.
Food loss and waste management
He explained while food loss and waste must be minimized, the remaining food waste can be turned into resources that can help increase food production.
“For instance, black soldier flies to be used in making rich-protein animal feeds are fed upon waste. The waste can be turned into organic manure and others to increase food production,” he said adding that there is a need for designing financial products and services offered to private investors and entrepreneurs in the value chains and developing appropriate technologies to reduce post-harvest losses.
Coping with climate shocks
With sustainable and resilient food production systems game changer, climate resilient agriculture through climate-smart agriculture practices such as controlling soil erosion, planting agroforestry trees, using drought-resistant crops, and irrigation among others will help to prepare for climate-related shocks due to changes in climate, he said.
The eastern and southern parts of Rwanda face dry spells while the western and northern parts face floods.
“Fighting soil erosion and scaling up irrigation plus agriculture insurance are responses to such shocks,” he said.
Rwanda loses Rwf800bn annually due to soil erosion.
“So far we have radical terraces on over 135,000 hectares and 986,000 hectares with progressive terraces,” he noted.
Currently, over 68,000 hectares of land are being irrigated and the target is 100,000 hectares by 2024.
Speaking about the Inclusive financing game changer, he explained that smallholder farmers in remote rural areas need access to financing through credit, saving, leasing, and insurance among other products.
“We have to make sure that whoever wants to invest in agriculture easily gets access to finance using different financing models,” he said.
The government is set to implement a $350 million agriculture loans de-risking project to improve access to finance.
Funded by the World Bank, the project targets to ensure that loans to agriculture get charged a single-digit interest rate so that farmers get affordable loans.
“Supporting agriculture sector and food systems is one of the ways to address the cost of living during difficult times such as Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine crisis. We urge people to be proud of farming and call upon financial institutions to ease access to finance,” he noted.