FAO in Rwanda

Investing in ‘soft skills’ for more innovations in food and agriculture

Omar Mutezimana, a rice farmer in Rwangingo catchment. He says he's very happy with the water users’ association. ©StratonHabumugisha

As Rwanda aims to build strong, demand-driven agriculture research sector, locally –adapted agricultural technologies and innovations are central to addressing the sector’s constraints such as climate change variability and low productivity, post-harvest handling and markets among others.

In 2015, the “Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems (CDAIS)” project, supported by the European Union (EU) and implemented by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with Agrinatura and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), was launched.

The CDAIS project used a participatory and continuous learning approach to improve functional capacities –‘soft skills’ –for innovation in three niche partnerships; cassava value chain (Ruhango District), the diary value chain ( Burera district), and in the Rwangongo-Karangazi catchment located in Gatsibo and Nyagatare districts.

Key partners and actors in the value chains are brought together for a constructive discussion to identify the challenges and opportunities for the development of the selected value chains.

Resolving conflict through cooperation and consensus

A government built dam and irrigation scheme in the Rwangingo-Karangazi catchment had led to conflicts between different groups of water users such as crop producers (maize, horticulture, and rice) and livestock farmers.

Here CDAIS facilitated farmers to hold regular meetings and trained them about better management and governance in that each farmer understood their respective responsibilities.

“Before CDAIS, everyone did what they wanted and took what water they could, with no ownership or maintenance of the infrastructure. But through the CDAIS meetings and training, everyone got to know each other, learnt to listen, leading to better communication, understanding, and a new mutual trust. We saw the problems more clearly and what we could do to improve the situation”, said Yussuf Nkurizabo, a farmer.

“Before CDAIS, cattle keepers were in conflict with others in the water users’ association as we felt that we had a right to free access to water”, said Godfrey Mpambara, President of the livestock farmers’ group and the collection centre.

Athanase Mahoni, is a farmer and Chairman of water users association for Nyagatare and Gatsibo Districts.

“CDAIS really changed the way we see and do things. Before we just waited for the government to come and make repairs, but now we are more organized and undertake most of the needed maintenance ourselves”, said Mahoni.

Building farmers’ skill for advocacy

Arnaud de Vanssay, Rural Development Team Leader of the EU delegation in Rwanda, remarks that CDAIS fits well with national strategies, and has been systematic in showing that much more can be achieved by strengthening ‘soft skills’.

“CDAIS is a good example of the possible benefits from well-organized value chain platforms, working at local level and linking them to markets, we could invest more in this approach”, Arnaud affirms.

In Ruhango District, the CDAIS project trained farmers on better cassava farming and handling, and brought together linked farmers with financial institutions and the Cassava processing plant in the area through dialogue. The banks are now more open to lend to farmers through cooperatives or individually.

Mukamusoni Alexia, a cassava farmer in Ruhango District. She is one of the 106 members of ‘Ubumwe Mbuye’ Cooperative.

“Before 2016, farmers didn’t have a steady market for their cassava, and the processing plant didn’t get supply. They were buying cassava from other areas. The issue was that we didn’t speak to each other. The project facilitated us to air our challenges in a dialogue which we resolved. Now the processing plant buys our produce and we’ve recently acquired loan from the banks”, said Alexia.

Her cooperative now produces over 800 tons a month and supplies Kinazi Cassava processing plant about 30 tons per week at Rwfr95/kilogramme.

Conducive environment needed

FAO believes that Innovation in food and agriculture is much more than technology, it is also about social economic, institutional and policy processes that impact the lives and livelihoods of farmers.

Dr Charles Murekezi, Director General for Agricultural Development in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources while officiating at the national forum pledged the government’s support to create enabling environment for CDAIS to thrive.

Otto Muhinda, Assistant FAO Representative noted that as global population grows faster, and climate change is affecting food production systems to feed them; innovations are crucial today in food systems.

“It is imperative that our agricultural systems modernize into more innovative approaches and strengthening capacities of all actors around a value chain in order to sustainably increase productivity, reduce wastes (food, efforts and finances) and put in place effective market linkages is vital”, Otto said.


Teopista Mutesi | Communications Specialist | FAO-Rwanda | Email: [email protected]  OR [email protected]