Policy Dialogue on Building Productive Capacities for Rwanda’s Agricultural Transformation, Rural Development, and Food Security

26th February 2020 @Lemigo Hotel, Kigali, Rwanda
Jointly organized by : EPRN,GIZ, IFPRI, MINAGRI and Compact 2025

Report of the proceedings

The event opened almost exactly on time (0905 hrs) with introductions of the 75-100 participants assembled in the Lemigo Hotel Plenary Hall. Introductions are customary. A good mix of researchers from the EPRN membership (especially faculty and students) were present, alongside representatives of government ministries and agencies, civil society/non-government organizations, donors/development partners and their implementing partners, and journalists. This report is organized by session. For further information, please see the annexes containing the program and participant lists.

Opening session : Welcome remarks : The role of research and analysis in evidence-based policymaking for agricultural transformation, rural development, and food security

  • Seth Kwizera, Executive Director, Economic Policy Research Network (EPRN)
  • Teunis van Rheenen, Head of Partnerships, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
  • Jean Claude Musabyimana, Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI)

The keynote panel began with a welcome and introductions from Seth Kwizera, Executive Director, Economic Policy Research Network (EPRN). Mr. Kwizera then invited the opening panel to the dais. The first remarks were given by Teunis van Rheenen, Head of Partnerships and Business Development, IFPRI, and Jean Claude Musabyimana, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resource (MINAGRI). Dr. Van Rheenen discussed IFPRI’s new Rwanda strategy support program and the Food Security Portal.

Mr. Musabyimana made the following points.

  1. Rwanda’s fourth Strategic Plan for Agricultural Transformation (PSTA IV) provides an ambitious and challenging agenda for Rwanda’s agriculture sector.
  2. We need to make a continuous effort to refine and revise the design and implementation on public policies and investments made to support PSTA IV.
  3. We can only do this if we have sufficient research and analysis to guide the revision process.
  4. And the research community needs to be a part of that process.
  5. The purpose of this policy dialogue is to strengthen the links between policy decision makers and the research community in Rwanda.
  6. The overall objective of this policy dialogue is to encourage the research community to be relevant to our national efforts. We want good ideas, data, research, analysis, and evidence to shape the country’s efforts to improve nutrition, food security, and food systems resilience.
  7. This dialogue aims to bridge the traditional divide between the research and policy communities. In this venue, we have participants from MINAGRI, from the membership of the Economic Policy Network (EPRN), the University of Rwanda, our Development Partner, and many others with an interest in policy-relevant research and analysis.
  8. This is a forum where MINAGRI and the research community can communicate and articulate their interests to support an evidence-based approach to PSTA IV design and implementation.
  9. Our expectation of this meeting is the emergence of a collaborative framework to support the agricultural transformation in the context of finite natural resources in Rwanda.

Mr. Musabyimana concluded by welcoming the participants and officially opening the conference.

Session 1 : Prioritizing public investment for the PSTA IV : How do we invest in agricultural transformation, rural development, and food security ?

Moderator : David Spielman, IFPRI

  • Octave Semwaga, Director General of Planning and Policy, MINAGRI
  • Dickson Malunda, Senior Research Fellow Institute of Policy Analysis and Research–Rwanda (IPAR)
  • Arnaud de Vanssay, Head of Section Rural Development, Delegation of the European Union to Rwanda
    Moderated discussion (20 minutes)

The first panel session began with a simple question from the moderator to the panelists : “What was their own vision for Rwanda’s agricultural sector and rural economy in the future ?” To frame the conversation, Dr. Semwaga highlighted the targets set forth in the PSTA IV, including a 10% agricultural GDP growth rate, which represents a significant increase from the current 5%. This opened the door to discussion around the diversity of visions among the panelists.

A common emphasis in the panelists’ opening remarks that followed was the shift from subsistence production to market-oriented farming, and to higher land and labor productivity levels. Specific emphasis was placed on putting farmers at the center of the transformation process and leaving no households behind ; taking advantage of Rwanda’s natural capital (water and rainfall, mountainous terrain for coffee and tea cultivation), growing domestic demand for food and value-added food products, and an extensive and growing infrastructure network.

Also highlighted—and drawing on language taken directly from the PSTA IV—was a vision of Rwandan agriculture as a knowledge-based sector, which requires investment in education and in the provision of services such as logistics, transport, storage, packaging and mechanization. This was followed by points supporting greater investment in financial services to de-risk agriculture, greater regional trade in food and other agricultural products, and explicit discouragement of regional protectionist policies.

When asked about the potential tradeoffs to the PSTA IV strategy, panelists highlighted several. First, a point was made that 60 percent of the PSTA IV budget is allocated to the development of irrigation systems. Yet recent World Bank research suggests that while returns to irrigation are high, they are only realized in the short Season C, and not in Seasons A or B, and are constrained by the availability of agricultural wage laborers. A simple reduction of 20 percentage points in public expenditure on irrigation, and a commensurate increase in agricultural education, training, and research would be useful.

Another tradeoff related directly to the monitoring and evaluation of the PSTA IV. It was argued that the indicators being tracked – km of feeder roads, ha of irrigated land – are not “smart” enough, and tend to lead government to focus on short-term gains and box ticking, at the expense of longer-term goals and the assessment of social and economic impacts, e.g., household incomes, poverty, and food and nutritional security.

Considering the topic of research and analysis in support of PSTA IV, the panelists and audience prioritized the following.

  • Support the construction of a reliable, up-to-date, and accessible repository of data and documentation on the agriculture sector performance at MINAGRI.
  • Develop and apply of forward-looking economywide models to examine the effects of policy changes and shocks to the agricultural sector and the economy.
  • Promote of more in-depth thematic research on agriculture, moving from basic descriptive and statistical analysis to more in-depth studies on the knowledge, mindsets, and behaviors among farmers, and on markets and value chain dynamics.
  • Undertake meta-reviews and meta-analyses of prior research studies on agriculture sector issues.
  • Make greater use of EPRN as an umbrella to mobilize researchers in Rwanda around policy-relevant analysis.

Session 2 : Strengthening capacity for agricultural transformation and food security : How do we develop the right productive and innovative capacities ?

Moderator : Winston Dawes, Senior Agricultural Economist, World Bank

  • Celestin Ukozehasi, Deputy Dean to the School of Agriculture and Food Science, University of Rwanda (UR)
  • Marion Nirere, SPIU Coordinator, MINAGRI
  • Annie Chapados, Livelihoods Advisor, Food Security and Nutrition, UK Department for International Development (DFID)
  • Anatole Uwiragiye, ActionAid
    Moderated discussion (20 minutes)

The second panel focused extensively on the types of productive and innovative capacities needed to advance Rwanda’s agricultural transformation. Reinforcing points made in earlier sessions, the panelists provided a fairly exhaustive assessment of the capacity constraints to this transformation, but then turned their attention to the question of how to organize to develop capacity.

The panel recognized that while farmers’ capacity are often identified as the key constraint to output and yield growth, these farmers are trying their level best, especially in light of the many demands placed on them.

The panel then shifted focus to a discussion of the government’s capacity to implement the PSTA IV, specifically how to prioritize public spending and make the right decisions in the presence of tradeoffs. The panel reflected on whether public spending patterns have changed from PSTA III in a way that corresponds to the new “transformative” strategy, whether new and different approaches are being taken in programs under PSTA IV, and whether difficult decisions have been taken to stop programs that were not working.

The design and implementation of PSTA IV received high marks from several panel members for its strong messaging around private sector-led investment in the agricultural sector, and for the emerging programs on agricultural financial services including insurance. Other areas of discussion included the role of consultations with key stakeholders to better coordinate the formulation and implementation of the many new policies, programs, and regulations emerging in the agricultural sector and from other sectors. This point drew attention to strengthening government capacity to coordinate and support complicated, multisectoral processes of policy change.

The panelists concluded with a consensus that a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to capacity development for agricultural transformation will not work. Different strategies are needed for different agri-food systems, geographies and agroecological zones, and specific groups within the population to address the specific issues they face, ranging from fragile ecosystems to high-potential lands, or from child stunting to income growth.

Considering the topic of research and analysis in support of PSTA IV, the panelists and audience recommended the following.

  • Develop capacity among farmers through replicable and scalable learning-centered extension approaches.
  • Develop capacity to coordinate policy change processes to ensure success at scale, including efforts to take a more multisectoral approach approaches—as already set forth in the PSTA IV—with better alignment across ministries and agencies and between government, the private sector, and civil society.
  • Develop capacity to monitor progress and performance by increasing the accessibility and use of MINAGRI’s extensive management information system, in conjunction with NISR’s repository of survey data, and other sources of data and information.
  • Develop capacity to collect, manage, and analyze data from other value chain actors in agriculture
  • Strengthen capacity to disseminate evidence generated by research and analysis to better inform policy decision-making and the decision-making of private and civil society actors.

Session 3 : Building collaborations to advance change in the agriculture sector : How do we create the right partnerships ?
Moderator : Claude Bizimana, SAKSS Coordinator, MINAGRI

  • Jean Paul Ndagijimana, Country Manager, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
  • Francois Nsengiyumva, Chair, Chambers of Agriculture
  • Alfred Bizoza, Founder President, High Lands Centre of Leadership for Development
  • Amy Beeler, Director, Economic Growth, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
    Moderated discussion (20 minutes)

The final panel session of the conference focused on challenging questions pitched by the moderator about how to build partnerships and collaborations for a more holistic, farmer-centered approach to agricultural transformation. Panelists quickly recognized that the many different perspectives from agriculture sector actors—government, private companies, civil society organizations, academia, donors, and farmers themselves—influence the ways in which we think about partnership and collaboration.

Each panelist highlighted the partnership-driven nature of their own organization, recognizing the power that collaboration brings to their work and the broad results derived from their work. But they quickly shifted to the need for greater emphasis on partnership building throughout the agricultural sector if the goals of PSTA IV are to be achieved.

Specific emphasis was placed on how to better incentivize private investment in agriculture, since private sector partnerships are viewed as critical to PSTA IV’s implementation. Initial discussion focused on the role of taxation and tax policy, risk mitigation strategies, finance and credit policy, and public-private linkages in the areas of crop breeding, seed system development.

Additional emphasis was placed on the need for broader consultation on the design of policies and regulations from a multisectoral perspective to better support Rwanda’s broader development goals. This includes consultations to identify unintended consequences of seemingly unrelated policies on agriculture and agro-processing, to estimate poverty and welfare impacts, and to leverage rural-urban linkages more effectively. Key to the success of such consultations is building the capacity of the private sector, farmers organizations, and other actors to advocate for their own interests in the policy sphere.

Closing session : Summary recommendations
Moderator : Seth Kwizera, Executive Director, EPRN

The conference with closed out with a presentation of key recommendations, as follows.

  • The policy research community should focus their research on the trend, patterns, and effects of the structural changes occurring in Rwanda’s agricultural sector.
  • The government, research community, private sector, and civil society should encourage and expand the open exchange of data to facilitate collaboration in policy-relevant research and analysis.
  • Greater attention should be given to research and analysis of incentives in the agriculture sector, particularly incentives designed to encourage private investment in agribusiness development such as policy, regulation, business development services, and market information systems.
  • Increased emphasis should be placed on research that is thematic in nature, focusing on specific aspects of agriculture, rural development, and the wider economy of Rwanda ; rigorous, in-depth and detailed ; and relevant to policy. This should include economywide modeling, randomized controlled trials, econometric analysis, cos-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis, qualitative analysis, meta-analysis, and other approaches that go beyond simple descriptives.
  • New research should explore the potential contribution of innovations in the agricultural sector, for example, improving the availability and affordability of improved varieties and quality seed, or developing integrated approaches to green and renewable energy production and distribution.
  • New and ongoing analysis of PSTA IV should expand beyond the scope of short-term indicators (e.g., changes in acreage under irrigation or kilometers of feeder roads) to longer-term impacts (e.g., changes in productivity, income, and welfare outcomes).

The conference was closed with thanks from the organizers for the active engagement of all speakers and participants.