June 23, 2010—In Rwanda, one of the world’s most densely populated landlocked countries, farmers face an uphill battle – literally – to get the best they can from the soil.
Land in Rwanda is scarce. But the major problem confronting those who work the land is that almost 90% of arable land is on hillsides. Torrential rain on more than half of the slopes causes erosion and subsequent flooding and silting in the valleys beneath. Erosion costs the country 1.4 million tons of fertile soil each year.
For the government in Rwanda, turning around the current low productivity is a critical priority and within reach, especially given the country’s favorable agro-climatic conditions. Raising agricultural productivity, while ensuring food security for people, is a key goal of Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Agriculture is the backbone of Rwanda’s economy, accounting for about 39% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 90% of the country’s food needs. It also generates about 63% of total export revenues. The country estimates consistent growth rates of 8% or more in agriculture will allow Rwanda to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.
As one of the first five countries to benefit from a new global food security trust fund, Rwanda will receive $50 million to help fund its strategic plan for agriculture and food security elaborated in partnership with donors, civil society and the private sector. The money will be used for efforts to transform hillside agriculture by reducing erosion in targeted areas and so put more money into the pockets of farmers. The aim is to boost productivity in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Global Fund A Response to G-20 Call
Set up in April, the global trust fund—known officially as the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP)—was created in response to a call by G-20 leaders in Pittsburgh last year for the World Bank Group to work with interested donors to set up the trust fund to help deal with some of the $22 billion in pledges made by G-8 leaders at their meeting in L’Aquila in July 2009.
Five founding donors have pledged nearly $900 million to the global fund: Canada, South Korea, Spain, the United States and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To date, money received from donors has totaled $254 million, representing 30% of the amount pledged by the five donors. Other countries to benefit from the first round of funding include Bangladesh, Haiti, Sierra Leone and Togo.
With grants ranging from $35 to $50 million, the funding is aimed at either boosting yields in staples like rice, maize and cassava or improving farmers’ access to better seeds, technical advice and better ways to link farmers to markets.
World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick described the selection of the first five countries to benefit from the fund as “an important first step towards achieving food security by giving poor people the opportunity to grow enough food to ensure that their families do not go hungry."
He said it is hoped other countries meeting at forthcoming summits will also deliver on their previous pledges and contribute to efforts to boost agricultural productivity and so see more produce in markets.
The grants are welcome from the point of view of Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who says the latest Bank research shows food price volatility is a growing concern. In recent months, domestic food prices have risen sharply in South Asia and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, despite a fall in global grain prices over the past year.
GAFSP Initial Grant Support
Bangladesh ($50 million): The fund enhances productivity and resilience of smallholder farmers against tidal surges, flash floods and frequent droughts, the fund will finance the adoption of improved seed varieties and better water management techniques.
Haiti ($35 million): The fund will raise the productivity of smallholder farmers, especially women, by improving access to seeds, fertilizers and technology.
Rwanda ($50 million): GAFSP investments will transform hillside agriculture by reducing erosion and bolstering productivity in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Sierra Leone ($50 million): GAFSP will finance commercialization of smallholder farmers through better inputs, farm management training and linking farmers to market.
Togo ($39 million): The fund will bolster yields in rice, maize and cassava through provision of improved seed varieties, technical assistance for smallholder farmers, and better smallholder access to affordable credit.