Kenya must embrace smart agriculture

10 Sep 2020

The phenomenon of climate change has become one of the most experienced effects around the globe with people experiencing both its subtle and stark effects.

The impacts of climate change affect every country on every continent.

The effects are creating unprecedented challenges for millions of people already burdened by poverty and oppression.

The increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires and droughts threaten the world’s food supply, drive people from their homes, separate families and jeopardize livelihoods.

All of these effects increase the risk of conflict, hunger and poverty.

Visible evidence and climbing numbers demonstrate that climate change is not a distant or imaginary threat, but rather a growing and undeniable reality.

However, the effects of climate change have been visible in Arid and semi-arid areas (ASAL), with some communities facing food insecurity, water scarcity and loss of livestock.

Climate change has impacted negatively on agriculture, which is the main source of livelihood in most of the rural communities living in the Arid and semi-arid areas (ASAL).

Tharaka Sub-county in Tharaka Nithi county is one of the areas that has been affected gravely by climate change.

It is considered a semi-arid area as it receives less rainfall suitable for livestock production.

Poor methods of farming and soil conservation, charcoal burning and overgrazing have left the earth bare and rocky.

The sloping areas have experienced uncontrolled soil erosion, which has resulted in deep gullies across the landscape especially in Tharaka constituency.

This has made the area unfavorable for agricultural activities leaving options for livestock rearing which is also endangered. Temperatures range between 220C to 360C. Soils are generally low in fertility and are characterised by poor water retention capacities.

Livelihoods of the vast majority of Tharaka Nithi people is highly depended on unreliable small-scale agriculture (with high level of crop failure due to erratic and unreliable rainfall), small holder livestock keeping, and charcoal burning (contributes to the dwindling of natural resources like indigenous trees).

The drought situation in Tharaka is recurrent and is experienced between June – September.

Many of the communities who are worst hit by drought living in these areas are smallholder livestock keepers who mainly rely on livestock assets as a livelihood source.

The drought results in shortages of animal feeds and water leading to loss of body condition and sometimes deaths due to lack of feeds to sustain them through the drought period.

These animals fetch low livestock prices in the market in the event their owners need to sell them. Shortages of animal feed result from lack of drought preparedness in terms of feed preservation and conservation.

Feeds conserved is often inadequate compared to the capacity available in times of plenty that requires to be preserved and usually, the preserved feed is exposed to sunlight and heat leading to excessive drying.

Therefore, there has been a need to establish measures to cushion livestock against the impact of drought through ensuring the availability of feeds either by local production and preservation or by boosting the capacities of communities to source elsewhere by improving their incomes in the long run.

KENDAT has been able to cushion the communities in Tharaka from the harsh climate change through supporting the fodder production and preservation technology.

KENDAT has partnered with communities in Tharaka and the County Government of Tharaka Nithi to develop two fodder banks to help in the preservation of animal feeds in time of plenty for use in dry period in two different areas.

The two fodder banks have been established with modern technology to help preserve dried fodder without losing the nutrient content in a long period of time.

These has seen communities living around the established fodder banks to be very receptive and have brought feed from the previous bumper harvest to store in the fodder banks for use during the drought period which is not far from the onset.

The fodder banks are also aimed at assisting the communities to increase their income by storing enough fodder that they can sell to other communities during the drought season and thus eradicating rural poverty.

KENDAT has also supported one community in Tharaka with fodder production through support of agricultural machinery aimed at processing fodder for preservation.

The community has been supported to acquire a chaff cutter to help in fodder processing and preserving the fodder in bags.

This is aimed at maximising use of the fodder bank by storing a lot of feed in a limited space.

This technology also helps the animals digest feed better by cutting the fodder into smaller more manageable pieces and mixing it with other forage and supplements.

This reduces wastage resulting from the animals rejecting any parts of their feed.

The community aspires to ensure a productive feed reserve throughout the year especially in periods when drought occur. The project endeavours to conserve indigenous forages and conduct seed bulking for replication of such.

It also targets to boost the income of the rural communities from the sale of hay and this will ensure all-round care for the welfare of their animals. KENDAT is also in the process of establishing more fodder banks in different parts of Tharaka to increase the resilience of these communities.

Information is an important resource in the fight against the adverse impacts of climate change.

There is a need to give farmers regular information on current issues related to climate change and agriculture.

This can be achieved through the strengthening of the nation’s extension services by involving administrative arms of county and national government such as ward administrators and chiefs.

These are people close to farmers and they encourage farmers to form groups for enhanced capacity through group efforts. The country also needs to increase the capacity for climate change policy analysis, implementation and the limited resources to fund climate change adaptation and mitigation programs.

Agriculture remains underfunded in East Africa

22 Jul 2020

During the East African Community Agriculture Budget Summit last week, small scale farmers in member states expressed concerns over the agriculture sector that has remained under funded calling on the member states to meet the Malabo declaration.

“I acknowledge so many challenges that our small scale farmers in the region face including inadequate access to land, seasonal climatic changes, drought, floods, limited access to credit for investment,” said the speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Martin Ngoga during the summit.

The EALA speaker said that the lack of linkage between research and small scale farmers and COVID-19 pandemic has increased and likely to increase the suffering of the majority poor who are mainly people from the rural communities.

The chairperson of the Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmers (ESAFF) Hakim Baliraine called on EALA to take a proactive role in providing oversight on the EAC Agriculture Investment, “EALA should also ensure that the Malabo Biennial Review Report 2020 and results are seriously discussed at national and regional level.”

The Biennial Agriculture Review encourages good performance by member states in implementing the provisions of the Malabo Declaration.

The Malabo declaration calls for member states to allocate at least 10 percent of the annual budget to agriculture, the African Union Malabo declaration of June 2014 is aimed at accelerating agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity.

Last year the farmers’ forum presented a petition to the East African Community heads of state summit signed by one million farmers calling for allocation of 10% national budget to the agriculture sector, the Malabo declaration also calls for improved livelihood setting up eight goals by 2025. Among the goals of the declaration is the recommitment to enhance investment finance in agriculture by upholding 10% public spending budget and Operationalization of Africa investment bank.

“We expeditiously request the presence of all speakers of the National Parliaments to discuss the issues of financing the agriculture sector in the region,” said Mathias Kasamba an EALA member and a farmer.

In 2016 EALA passed a resolution for East Africa member states to fast-track the Malabo declaration by putting in place financial instruments which are responsive to the needs of small scale farmers.

Despite agriculture contributing to more than 30% of the region’s GDP, there have been a significant decline in the budget allocation by East African member states in agriculture sector.

African Union’s Malabo declaration aims to end hunger and reduce the poverty rate in the continent by a half in the year 2025.

Agriculture employs about 80 percent of the region’s 172 million people who live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood, Rwanda won the best overall Malabo Biennial Review Gold Award in Africa scoring the highest marks.

However no country was on track in the overall for enhancing investment finance in agriculture, with only Burundi considered to be on track in East Africa for government agriculture expenditure as of the percentage of total government expenditure which should be at least 10 percent.

Original article: Burundi times

What is holding back agroecological research for Africa?

18 Jun 2020

Summary

  • Funding for agricultural research, education and extension through official development assistance has stagnated in the past 10 years, at 14 per cent of agricultural aid in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2017.
  • Most funders and governments still favour ‘green revolution’ approaches, in the belief that industrial agriculture is the only way to sufficient food.
  • Although Africa’s agri-development landscape is extremely complex and priorities highly divergent, there is a need for donors to rethink their financing strategies. 

A report by Biovision International, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (Ipes-Food) and the United Kingdom-based Institute of Development Studies, shows only a small fraction of agricultural research funding to Sub-Saharan Africa is spent on agroecology and other sustainable approaches.

“Money Flows: what is holding back investment in agroecological research for Africa?”, which has analysed the all-important financial flows in food system research that go to sub-Saharan Africa, shows that money flows in Africa’s agricultural development sector are mainly reinforcing damaging industrial models.

Funding for agricultural research, education and extension through official development assistance has stagnated in the past 10 years, at 14 per cent of agricultural aid in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2017. Most funders and governments still favour ‘green revolution’ approaches, in the belief that industrial agriculture is the only way to sufficient food.

Although Africa’s agri-development landscape is extremely complex and priorities highly divergent, there is a need for donors to rethink their financing strategies. Despite the merits of agroecological approaches in transforming farming systems, only a handful of donors recognise it as a means of building sustainable food systems.

Despite commitments in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme to invest more than one per cent of agricultural GDP in research, investments in agricultural research by governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have fallen significantly with the overall investment ratio dropping below 0.5 per cent in 2010-2014. Agricultural funding has generally been de-prioritised in favour of other development issues, including health, education and national security.

Industrial agriculture

Kenya and Ethiopia attract significant bilateral and multilateral agricultural aid, but the resources for agricultural research are mainly used for industrial agriculture with limited resources going to agroecology. More than 70 per cent of Kenyan research institutes’ projects focused on industrial agriculture, with only 13 per cent being agroecological. Another 13 per cent of funding is used to replace synthetic inputs with organic alternatives.

Top donors for Kenya are the United States, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Union, Germany, the World Bank’s International Development Association and Japan. At $274 million (Sh27 billion) a year, Kenya’s investment in public agricultural research is the third-highest in Africa.

The “Money Flows” report also shines a light on Switzerland, a major bilateral donor, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest philanthropic investor in agri-development. The findings paint an interesting picture. Some 85 per cent of the projects funded by the Gates Foundation support industrial agriculture and/or targeted approaches such as improved pesticide practices. Only three per cent of Gates Foundation projects were agroecological.

By contrast, 51 per cent of Swiss-funded AgR4D projects had agroecological components, and most of these (41 per cent) also included aspects of socioeconomic and political change like decent working conditions and gender equality. Just 13 per cent of Swiss aid focused only on industrial agriculture. A fraction of UK and Belgian development aid, and minimal US agricultural research funding, also goes to agroecology.

But the tide is changing. There is a growing interest in agroecology by bilateral and multilateral donors — France, Germany, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Donors must encourage long-term, pooled funding models that encourage research institutes to implement agroecological projects, ensure projects are inclusive and co-designed with farmers and communities, and increase funding to African organisations and enhance transparency.

Donors also need to address the issue of unequal power relations in the agricultural sector. This can be done by building strong, long-lasting partnerships and supporting bottom-up alliances with the involvement of farmer groups and researchers.

The primary focus must be on smallholder farmers contributing to a safer and healthier world who support agroecological approaches. Let us turn our back on the vested interests obsessed with the technological fixes damaging soils and livelihoods and creating a dependency on the world’s biggest agri-businesses.

African countries need to reform their farming systems and put more money into agroecological approaches and implement sustained actions to effectively deal with the negative impacts of climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

They must be responsive to the needs of the millions of smallholder farmers who count on them to make the right decisions.

Read the original article here

Lockdowns May Adversely Affect Small Scale Farmers

3 Jun 2020

There is a risk of poverty levels among small scale farmers going up if the ongoing restrictions on country borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic continue to be effected.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) President Gilbert Houngbo said governments should consider easing their lockdowns and find other ways of controlling the spread of the disease.

“When countries close their borders, or if they decide they will not transport their food, it means that for countries that import, food will not arrive,” he said.

Dr Houngbo spoke during a question and answer reporting online session organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation as part of a Covid-19 professional development programme run in association with Ifad

NO FOOD SHORTAGE

Currently, there is no food shortage, he said, but if some countries make decisions not to export their food, it means some countries will face shortages.

He said governments should ensure that farmers will not have to sell the little they produce to survive.

UNILATERAL DECISIONS

Dr Houngbo also said that the whole food chain from the production to access needs to stop making unilateral decisions without thinking about the international economies.

“We need to make sure that the rural poor are not negatively affected by the pandemic. Farmers should also avoid a monoculture approach and produce two or three crops, some being staple and others being cash crops,” he said

He said Ifad is repurposing its ongoing projects to respond to the pandemic after realising that it has impacted small scale farmers, both economically and socially.

REPURPOSE FUNDS

Currently there are 70 countries which have asked the projects to be repurposed to ensure the funds are used to respond to needs occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic. “Ifad is not a humanitarian agency and we don’t want to engage in humanitarian emergency response. We want to ensure our focus to the rural small scale farmers remains even as the world strives to respond to the pandemic,” said Dr Houngbo.

He revealed that Ifad is engaging banks to give waivers to the small scale farmers to enable them respond to the pandemic.He said that, so far, there has not been shortage of food across the world as was expected but that could change if the pandemic stays longer.

He said donor funding has been consistent and hoped to get more funds to support farmers to continue with production and maintain food security across the world.

“We were worried that there may be a shift from agriculture to health but that hasn’t happened so far. There are some donors who have shown interest to contribute to emergency,” he said.

SMART PHONES

Dr Houngbo further asked governments to invest in ensuring small scale farmers and the rural poor get access to smart phones and embrace digital farming as part of innovative measures that need to be taken.

“Digital agriculture should be embraced to enable farmers communicate to their customers and market their farm produces,” said Dr Houngbo.

He said there is need for farmers to be innovative and continue farming during the lockdowns.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic is a serious shock to the global community and farmers need to develop resilience.

“The shock of locust invention in farms in East Africa is also a major threat to food security. Governments should help farmers to build resilience to such shocks,” he said.

In Kenya, the government has been spraying the locusts which have been invading farms in several counties.

Making low-cost digital tools the critical solution to smallholder farmers’ needs during global crises

24 May 2020

Digital information-sharing tools such as audio, text and video messaging through mobile phones can prove to be highly effective in disseminating critical information to smallholder farmers during times of limited physical access as seen in the present COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent webinar on using affordable mobile technologies to assist smallholder farmers during these adverse times, experts in digital technology in agriculture shared examples of current successes and ideas for potential scaling up.

“Digital agriculture will play a key part in developing extension services across geographies, with extension workers connecting the community to knowledge management systems.” He recommended that, in partnership with national agri institutions, information about climate, finance, agronomy, pests/disease, etc. could be provided to extension workers, so that they could then pass it on to the farmers. “They can be assisted in this by apps such as Plantix. This is an incredible opportunity to bring these information systems together,” he said, emphasizing that digital tools should be used to disseminate scientific knowledge that is integrated with indigenous knowhow and adapted to local contexts.

Mr Ram Dhulipala, Theme Leader, Digital Agriculture and Youth Initiatives, ICRISAT, outlined four key areas in which digital tools supported by ICRISAT were making a big difference:

Extension services

Extension services – knowledge sharing through field demonstrations, farmer field days etc. – play a key role in supporting smallholder farmers. The pandemic-related social distancing has led to a big move towards to mainstreaming e-extension services – knowledge sharing through mobile phones, TV and social media. iSAT (Intelligent Systems Advisory Tool) is a good example, helping 8000 farmers in India by relaying essential weather-related agrometeorological advisory services. Recently, e-extension services have been set up for the Accelerated Value Chain Development project in Kenya, benefitting 20,000 farmers.

Input value chains

New self-service apps or agent-led e-commerce models for providing farmers with seeds, fertilizers, and other farm inputs have led to enhanced transparency and removal of intermediaries. Digitalization of existing structures and functions also pave the way for future easier access to institutional finance.

Agriculture marketing

Since the lockdown in India happened just as produce was ready for harvest and sale, several self-service portals or agent-led models stepped in to successfully link farm gate produce directly to consumers. Citizen-led approaches using social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc. played a big role in this effort.

Collectivization of farmers

Digital tools help in collectivization of smallholder farmers, helping them pool resources and benefit from shared mechanized farm equipment rentals, drones (for spraying of pesticides), online aggregation and sale of produce etc.

Ms Erna Groudt, Client Relationship Manager at eProd, a Kenya-based ERP for agriculture supply chain management, spoke about how their product was working remotely to collect reliable farm data from farmers’ fields, share weather and other information with farmers through SMS etc., and relieve cashflow restraints by providing credit mobile payments and so on.

Mr Jonathan Lehe, Chief Development Officer of Precision Agriculture for Development, described how his company developed a two-way SMS platform to warn farmers of emergency fall armyworm outbreaks in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture. Also, in Uganda, they provided two-way voice-based services of digital advice to smallholder coffee farmers.

The webinar – ‘Supporting farmers with low-cost digital tools during the COVID pandemic’ was conducted on 19 May as part of the ICT4D Conference
series, by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and NetHope. It was moderated by Sonja Ruetzel, CRS. The video of the session can be seen here.

Author:

Rajani Kumar
Senior Communications Officer
ICRISAT

Read the original article here

Second wave of locust invasion and floods to shake East Africa economies

15 May 2020

The East African Community secretariat will set aside emergency funds to turn tides against floods and locusts.

While floods are wreaking havoc across the region, a swarm of locusts is expected to once again invade Kenya through Ethiopia. This will deal a double blow to food security in a region that is already grappling with widespread economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have convened a meeting of Agriculture Ministers from the EAC to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on agriculture and the impending invasion of locusts in our region,” said Christoph Bazivamo, deputy EAC secretary-general in charge of productive and social sector.

This comes in the wake of an announcement by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, warning that a new generation of locusts is set to enter East Africa in June.

FAO’s resilience team leader for Eastern Africa Cyril Ferrand is concerned that the desert locust will eat seedlings and young plants, leaving no chance for crops to mature.

“More swarms of locusts are set to mature in central and northern areas in Kenya with a few laying eggs and hatching starts. We must continue with control measures,” said Mr Ferrand.

“The current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as more swarms form and mature in northern and central Kenya and southern Ethiopia. This represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods because it coincides with the early beginning of the long rains and the current growing season,” warns desert locust situation update report by FAO and dated April 28, 2020.

A new generation of breeding is under way in Kenya where more eggs will hatch and form hopper bands in May, followed by new swarms in late June and July, which coincides with the harvest season in Kenya.

“First, we intend to review measures taken by each EAC partner state and share the best practices to curb the challenge posed by these natural disasters,” he said.

FAO warns that it will be too late to stop the locusts from spreading in less than six months, thereby inviting starvation to millions.

FAO is also concerned that the chemicals used will kill wildlife and damage food supplies.

Despite FAO’s warning, EAC partner states remain unprepared to deal with the threat.

Current solutions have not and will not work, the agency warns, as the sizes of the swarms are too big for aerial spraying. Further, current spraying practices don’t kill everything, leaving bugs in the ground.

Mr Bazivamo disclosed that emergency funds allocated by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) will be used in the initial fight against the locusts as the region seeks for more funding support from other international as well as local partners.

Emergency funds

“We intend to use part of the funds set aside by EALA for emergency,” said Mr Bazivamo. The amount will be discussed in the meeting to be held later this week.

The EALA approved the East African Community’s Supplementary Budget of $4.9 million for the financial year ending June, 2020, to fund its additional expenditure for priority projects and programmes that were hitherto unfunded.

Out of the amount, only $1.8 million is to be used for financial sector and development and regionalisation projects. No specific amounts have been allocated for the locust campaign.

At the same time, Lake Victoria Basin countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have been receiving abnormally heavy rainfall since October 2019 causing flooding and water levels rising in the lake.

Story by LUKE ANAMI, The East African

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KILIMOMART APPLICATION LAUNCH: Fronting ICT to boost trade in Organic Agriculture products in EAC

7 May 2020

The largest proportion of the East African Community (EAC) population directly depend on agriculture for livelihood and most of the food producers in EAC are small-scale farmers and mostly women. Governments in EAC have recognized agriculture as the engine for development of their economies. The Common Market Protocol presents a great opportunity for small-scale farmers to profit from the opportunities brought by regional integration. The East African Community (EAC) celebrated 20 years since the integration last year. ICT was highlighted as one of the avenues for making the grassroots citizen enjoy the benefits of the integration.

On Tuesday, 5th May 2020, ESAFF Uganda in partnership with Kenya Small Scale Farmers’ Forum launched the Kilimomart Application and Website. The Application and website were developed with support from Incubator for Integration and Development (IIDEA) in East Africa, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH EAC with the aim of building market linkages for organic products between small scale farmers and consumers and to empower small scale farmers in the East African Community (EAC) region to exploit and utilize the current agriculture trade prospects in the region. The application will also provide small scale farmers with an opportunity to access market information, weather information as well as farming practices and techniques.

During this online launch, Nancy Mugimba, the National Coordinator of ESAFF Uganda explained the relevance of the Kilimomart Application given the current situation all over the EAC region. She noted that as the world goes digital and tech-savvy, small scale farmers cannot be left behind.

Mr. Hakim Baliraine, the National Chairperson for ESAFF Uganda appealed to internet providers to lower costs or provide cost-free internet to small-scale farmers accessing the Kilimomart Application as this will attract more small scale farmers especially women to use this online platform.

When using the KilimoMart Application, small-scale farmers will not only get access to market but will also have access to agriculture services, farming practices and techniques, weather information, laws and policies including EAC updates but will also enjoy an interactive Forum with consumers and other actors.

The Kilimomart Application and Website was officially launched by Hon. Mathias Kasamba. While speaking at the event, Hon. Mathias Kasamba appreciated ESAFF Uganda and the partners for such a great innovation given the current situation of the COVID19 pandemic in the region. He added that the East African Legislative Assembly will continue campaigning for more funding to the Agriculture sector In the EAC to facilitate more of such innovations. He further called for stronger commitment toward the integration process and urged the participants to utilize the platform both on the website and on Google Play.

Many small-scale farmers across the region welcomed the innovation while praising its ability to connect small-scale farmers across the region and reduce the exploitation by “middlemen” that they are currently facing. Margaret Masudio, a small scale farmer from Adjumani district called upon fellow small scale farmers to utilize the application and the government to ensure popularization of ICT use among small holder farmers.

Ms. Joyce Kevin Abalo, Senior Advisor, IIDEA and Gender GIZ EAC programme while closing the event said that GIZ is grateful to support the Kilimomart innovation with the view of empowering small scale farmers in Kenya and Uganda to explore and utilize current trade prospects in the region and strengthen inclusive small scale farmers online engagement with different stakeholders in the EAC region to promote regional integration. She further thanked and congratulated ESAFF Uganda and partners for this great achievement so far in the implementation of the IIDEA project.

Both the consumers and the small-scale farmers can download the Application on Google Play or use the website www.kilimomart.com. The pilot stage of the Kilimomart Application ends in July 2020.

Online launch of KILIMOMART Mobile app and webiste

ESAFF Uganda in partnership with Kenya Small Scale Farmers’ Forum with support from IIDEA GIZ has developed KilimoMart App and website with the objectives of;

1) Building market linkages for organic products between small scale farmers and consumers.
2) Empowering small-scale farmers in Kenya and Uganda (and the EAC region) to explore and utilize the current agriculture trade prospects in the region.
3) Strengthening inclusive small-scale farmers’ online engagement with different stakeholders in the EAC region to promote regional integration.

KilimoMart gives small scale farmers in EAC the opportunity to access information like market information, farming practices and techniques, weather information, laws, and policies including East African Community (EAC) updates.

The online launch will take place on 5th May 2020 at 02:30 EAT. Kindly register and attend the event. We look forward to your online presence despite your busy schedules.

For more information:

Nancy Mugimba
National Coordinator
coordinator@esaffuganda.org
https://esaffuganda.org/kilimomart/

Visit the App website: www.kilimomart.com

COVID-19: Agriculture in East Africa takes a hit

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has severely impacted economic activities in Africa’s Rwanda. Agriculture is one of them.

Despite official claims that agriculture must continue even with restrictions in place to curb the COVID-19 spread, farmers have been facing difficulties.

Jeremie Ruhirwa, a Rwandan agro-dealer could not buy di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilizer, despite multiple efforts.

“Inputs are prepaid to an accredited wholesaler. I traveled around an hour on my motorcycle to get to the office, but it was closed. I called up their employees, but they could not come due to lack of public transport,” he said.

People who needed DAP were resorting to other fertilizers potentially harmful to their crops, he added.

In principle, services including veterinary pharmacies, livestock feeds, fertilizers, harvesting, transportation and trading of farm produce, agriculture extension services, and agro-processing, as well as marketing of processed foods and beverages, come under essential services.

“Essential services continue to be delivered so that food chain is not disrupted,” a statement signed by Gerardine Mukeshimana, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Rwanda, read.

Despite guidelines, experts said the ban on movement has affected multiple sectors, including agriculture.

“Some people earn from non-agricultural businesses to get investment, which is now shut. Others who sent money to their relatives for agricultural purposes are now using it for their own survival. Most fertilizers and seeds retailers use public transport, which is currently unavailable,” said Teddy Kaberuka, an economist.

According to Africa Agriculture Status Report 2018, about 70 percent of the continent’s population work as smallholder farmers on land less than two hectares. The lockdown has dealt the most severe blow to them.

“The money I earned from cleaning at a school used to help me cultivate crops. But schools are now shut and I am unable to earn. I don’t have the money to get seeds and fertilizers,” said Theogene Bahanugira, a smallholder farmer.

“We employ several daily wagers but have stopped in lieu of social distancing measures. When I wanted to transport bean stakes for my farm, I was told that I will have to get permission for the same. So I decided to hire people to do the job. This increased the cost of production,” Joseph Gafaranga, farmer and secretary-general, Imbaraga Farmers Organization said.

To cope with the challenges, Director-General of Rwanda Agricultural Board, Karangwa Patrick, advised farmers to shift to mechanized farming.

“A tractor is more affordable. Most providers charge around 100,000 Rwandan Franc (FRw) ($110) per hectare, while you may need 150 people for a hectare, which may cost you over FRw 180,000 ($190). We have over 115 tractors countrywide owned by private companies,” he said.

However, the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, QU Dongyu said on March 28 that restrictions of movement may impede farming processing.

Shortage of fertilizers, veterinary medicines and other input could also affect agricultural production.

Story by:  Christophe Hitayezu

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