President Kagame Rallies Support for Smallholder Farmers
President Paul Kagame has urged world leaders to support smallholder farmers if the world is to achieve sustainable agriculture productivity and environment protection. The Head of State made the call on Wednesday during the 35th session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) held under the theme, “Sustainable smallholder agriculture: feeding the world, protecting the planet”.
He was among the key speakers at the inaugural ceremony of the two-day meeting held at the headquarters of IFAD in Rome, Italy.
“If the world is to meet the twin objectives of feeding the growing population and protecting the environment we will have to do what we know works.” Kagame said. “And that is targeted support and investment in smallholder farming to raise agricultural productivity, contribute to food security and reduce poverty, while protecting our planet.”
Using Rwanda’s experience, the President said that the world’s growing population can get enough food only if smallholder farmers have access to basic modern farming tools including fertilizers, improved seeds and professional advices.
“Over the last five years, a significant increase from smallholder farms has had a noticeable impact on the lives of our citizens. Agricultural GDP has grown at an average of 8 percent ensuring food security and higher incomes for farmers,” he added.
“This has directly resulted in one million Rwandans moving above the poverty line in the same period.”
FAO estimates that 525 million farms exist worldwide, nearly 77 percent of which are small-scale (less than 2 hectares) and occupy about 60 percent of the world’s arable land.
President Kagame elaborated the importance of smallholder farmers, especially in developing countries, noting that smallholder agriculture remains the source of livelihood and food supply for the majority of the population.
“In that sense every farmer counts none is too small to be ignored,” the President emphasized.
The Head of State told representatives of IFAD member countries that Rwandans are assuming ownership of the agriculture transformation thus working to move away from subsistence farming to market oriented farming.
He singled out a number of home grown initiatives that have turned out to be important tools for Rwanda’s Development.
The one cow per poor family programme, land consolidation and the crop intensification programme, Kagame pointed out, have contributed to increased agricultural productivity.
“For example between 2007 and 2010, production of maize tripled and that of both wheat and cassava more than doubled.”
The Head of State further stressed that Rwanda’s programs to increase agricultural productivity go hand in hand with environment conservation because it is one of the benchmarks of governance for which leaders at all levels are held accountable.
Despite the progress, President Kagame warned that there is still a long way to go and called for increased investment in “research and new technologies to raise production and productivity and for value addition, especially to staple food crops.”
The President added that there is a need to make available sufficient resources to strengthen rural financial systems for farmers. He also emphasized that policies that ensure the participation of citizens and close cooperation of development partners can make things better.
President Kagame thanked IFAD, FAO, WFP the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for backing Rwanda’s development programmes.
Later in the day, President Kagame and IFAD boss Kanayo F. Nwanze a joint press conference, during which the Rwandan leader stressed that international institutions should listen more, dictate less and should align their support to national priorities.
Looking ahead, the IFAD boss outlined his institution’s priorities.
“We will also be expanding our partnerships with the private sector, making smallholder farmers more visible business partners in their efforts to feed the world.” Nwanze said.
“The Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme will make IFAD a leader in climate-smart funding for smallholders.”
“And we will expand our presence in fragile states and the remote areas of developing countries where IFAD has always worked.” he pledged.
President Paul Kagame held separate talks with the Kanayo F. Mwanze the President of the International Fund for Agriculture Development and Mrs. Ertharin Cousin the Upcoming Executive Director of the World Food Programme. Talks focused on relations that Rwanda has with IFAD and PAM. The President thanked the two organizations for their continued support to Rwanda