How can agro-processing development in Rwanda become more climate-aware, trade-driven and food security-enhancing? This study explores this question and provides policy options for coherently harnessing the full potential of Rwanda’s still nascent agro-industry despite climate change.
Agro-processing in Rwanda is approached and pursued in a way that promotes industrialisation while addressing food security concerns. Indeed, food processing offers Rwanda a wealth of opportunity for industrialisation, economic development, and poverty alleviation. Though capacity, financial, technological, and other related constraints remain to be addressed, political motivation has already been demonstrated by the establishment of the agencies necessary to construct, support, and regulate this sector. The involved private players working in the sector are doing it with optimism. While pursuing related support policies and measures, Rwanda is mindful of the need to enhance agro-processing in a manner that promotes sustainable trade for the preservation of the environment.
With these objectives in mind, it is important to take into account the linkages between climate, food security, and trade while developing agro-industrialisation policies, to ensure the sustainability and efficiency of the sector. This study attempts to engage these issues and related dynamics from the policy perspective and practices in Rwanda. The study also draws from the regional perspective of the East African Community (EAC), where the need to embark on agro-industrialisation by converting raw agricultural products into value-added products for enhanced food security, poverty reduction, and overall economic development is recognised by Partner States.
With regard to food security, the Rwandan Government considers agriculture and rural development to be crucial for national poverty reduction and the improvement of welfare for the vast majority of Rwandans. Comprehensive strategies for structural reform of the agricultural sector and the enhancement of food security are currently in place and being implemented. Along the implementation path, the challenges to overcome include the difficult dynamic of high rural population density and growth rates, limited availability and lessening fertility of land, low production technology level, and a strong subsistence orientation.
The study proposes the following recommendations as the best ways forward: a) Formulation and implementation of an agro-processing policy and strategy:
According to the majority of people consulted while conducting this study, there is general consensus on the need to have a policy and strategy that is dedicated to support and promote a vibrant agro- processing sector in Rwanda. The main argument advanced in support of this position maintains that agro-processing cannot be enhanced by only the implementation of the existing policies.
Therefore, there is a need for a specific policy and strategy to address specific dynamics and concerns to directly support agro-processing activities.
b) Mainstreaming gender in trade policy: It is important to ensure that gender is mainstreamed within trade policy. In this regard, some specific considerations should include: the integration of gender issues in trade policy formulation; implementation in trade negotiations at national, regional, and international levels; increased awareness among women of emerging trade opportunities at national, regional, and international levels; identifying sectors where the female workforce is particularly significant; designing trade policies that enhance production Agro-industrial Development Policies: What Nexus to Climate, Food Security, and Trade? and trade opportunities in such product sectors; increasing access for women to train and gain entrepreneurial skills, including managing and financing; and training for women entrepreneurs in rural areas.
c) Mainstreaming environment in agriculture and trade policies: The need to focus on sustainable agriculture production, including organic agriculture, is one option.
Rwanda should also seek to gain from attracting new investments under the clean development mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol (KP), which provides special and differentiated treatment for LDCs, although to date very few of them been able to take advantage of this.
d) Improved coordination of related policies and strategies: There is a need to improve the coordination of government policies and strategies which complement each other, especially in the promotion of agriculture, commerce, industry, and the protection of environment.
e) Strengthened linkages and stakeholders forum: Better linkages of stakeholders in order to access and share key information about the agro-processing sector is very important and should be strengthened. Again, a national forum for stakeholders in agro-processing development should be promoted.
f) More capacity building to farmers: There is a need to promote more professional farmers in order to improve production. This is very important to, especially, enhance farmersí capacities in contract farming and negotiating with stakeholders along product value chains.
g) Enhancing efforts to combat industrial pollution: There is a need to adopt cleaner production by reducing quantities of untreated industrial waste produced by industry; by developing partnerships between industry and government to find affordable ways of meeting waste treatment obligations; and continued promotion of cleaner production in the industrial sector by seeking technical assistance for cleaner production based on best practices in systems that already exist in other countries.
h) Expediting efforts at the EAC level: At the regional level, the EAC has in place a number of relevant policies and strategies that take cognizance of national development policies, plans, strategies, and programmes of respective Partner States on addressing climate change issues. The region also has appropriate institutional structures and systems in place; thus, what is urgently needed is to expedite the implementation of measures and actions already in place as well as those being implemented.