By Elias Hakizimana.
The state of Rwanda’s food security and environmental protection is set to leapfrog into a brighter future following the continued research and study that is aimed at means of conserving and restoring the environment while enhancing people’s wellbeing and livelihood.
The University of Rwanda’s Professor Dr. Elias Bizuru is currently heading a team of researchers in collaboration with the Nile Basin Discourse Forum (NBDF)-Rwanda in a study entitled “Agro-ecology in Rwanda: Status, challenges and opportunities.
The study was launched on Tuesday 30th October 2018 at Nobleza Hotel in an inception workshop that brought together representatives of Governmental Institutions, international organizations, local NGOs, farmers, researchers, and other stakeholders. The workshop marked the beginning of efforts for research for sustainable solutions to provide ecological principles for the design and management of sustainable and resource-conserving agricultural systems in the country.
The study will analyse the current agricultural policies and programs in place in Rwanda through the lens of agro-ecology principles, assess current agricultural practices and their effects on the environment, farmers and local leaders’ knowledge, perception, challenges and proposed solutions to agriculture sustainability. Objectively, the study will also propose key actions for a stronger engagement in agro-ecology mainstreaming building on the identified opportunities.
The research project whose time line is for two years, is being supported by UNDP through the Small Grant Program, a program on behalf of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) that has worked globally for the last 25 years and now 12 years in Rwanda.
GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, comprising of international institutions, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues. the project will focus on research activities within eight pilot districts of Bugesera, Kirehe, Musanze, Gicumbi, Nyamasheke, Rubavu, Nyaruguru and Gisagara.
“Together, let’s make Rwanda a country not only among the cleanest, the safest and one with more gender responsive governance in the world but also a country with the safest environment as well as where food is abundant, healthy and sweet,” said Mrs. Roselyn Sinemani, the United Nations Development Program-UNDP Deputy Country Director, in her remarks
Three years ago, UNDP in consultation with national partners, agro-ecology was selected as the key priority for SGP in Rwanda focusing Bugesera district as the geographic focal point for the period 2015-2019.
“Today, we are supporting at least one small scale agro-ecology project in each Sector of Bugesera,” Sinemani noted. She added that the projects are promoting practices such small scale irrigation, organic farming, integrated pest control, mulching, agro-forestry, progressive terracing and so on, all aiming at helping Rwandans to adopt to climate variability as far as food security is concerned.
During the workshop, group discussions were held among participants from across the country and beyond where challenges and opportunities were identified. Recommendations were made and each group leader made a representation on key issues discussed.
Such projects as this are expected to curtail ecological footprints of food production and generate lessons as well as knowledge to be shared with other farmers to inspire replication and up scaling.
“More of such workshops will continue prevailing in the country, said Dr. Teresphore Ndabamenye, head of crop and food security at RAB. He added that the study gives a flow for other studies with specific topics.
“There is a need to show scientific facts with factors and degrees which influence the agro-ecology sector in Rwanda,” Ndabamenye noted.
At the end of the project, research results will be endorsed by agricultural stakeholders, country actors at all levels involved in the agro-ecological sector development and will be approached for dialogue with the purpose of community awareness from recommended actions.
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