By Jean d’Amour Mugabo
Farmers in Rwanda are increasingly gaining voice in setting districts’ performance targets and holding leaders accountable, thanks to a project by Transparency International (TI)-Rwanda.
Funded by the World Bank, the five-year project running until 2022 aims at empowering farmers at district level to improve performance contracts, locally known as Imihigo, in agriculture sector through social accountability tools.
The project is being implemented in the Eastern Province’s Kayonza District and in Nyanza District of the Southern Province.
During the TI, World Bank and government officials visit on Tuesday, Kayonza farmers said the project has helped them earn agricultural skills and space for advancing their concerns from grassroots level to the district level. Districts usually set performance targets or Imihigo for which they receive budget in every fiscal year.
Faustin Nzaramba, a farmer in Rwinkwavu Sector, said farmers have acquired cooperative management skills and are working basing on targets whereas their aspirations are advanced through their representatives to the district.
“We sit together and prepare our targets, write them down, assess the required inputs and embark on their implementation, then we later evaluate our targets attainment upon the harvest,” he said.
Odette Mukamutara, another farmer in Rwinkwavu, said they used to grow sweet potatoes and yams which could not earn them cash but they are now earning money for children’s school fees and other basic needs since they started growing rice.
The duo is part of Indatwa cooperative which brings together 4,217 members who mainly grow rice on 1,000 hectares of land in Rwinkwavu Sector.
With increased farm production, farmers cite challenges of the market as the current client, Izimano Industry, has insufficient funds and delays to pay for the rice supplies as a consequence.
“We supplied the first batch of our production to Izimano Industry in January but out of a total of Rwf330 million, the buyer has only paid us Rwf140 million per now. There is a huge delay in paying us and this is because of the market monopoly,” said Olive Irababarira, the cooperative manager.
Officials pledge solutions
Visiting officials pledged action on raised issues and encouraged the farmers to heed to the lessons by the agriculturist for larger production.
Dr Octave Semwaga, Director of Planning at the Ministry of Agriculture, commended TI-Rwanda’s project on helping shape farmers’ concerns and advancing them into the national planning.
“We ask you to optimally utilise the irrigation machines and other subsidies the government has offered you. We shall be looking into how we can bring you more support. Aim at bigger production and cash in more,” he said.
“We are happy now that the challenge farmers here are facing is about the market; it was previously different when they were crying of poor production and food shortage. We have taken up this market challenge; we want to accompany rice dealers to ensure better marketing and find other markets with the industrialists who can use our rice as raw material to manufacture other products.”
The Executive Director of TI-Rwanda, Apollinaire Mupiganyi, said the anti-graft body has taken up the farmers’ problems and will keep advocating for their solutions with the concerned institutions.
“It has been observed that there are top-down programmes while the ordinary citizens’ role is insignificant. We started this project to improve citizens’ participation in making decisions that affect them. We help collect their concerns and send them to the district level for consideration. They have got a voice to task the government on their priorities,” he said.
Mupiganyi added that lessons from the project’s implementation will be shared and discussed in a way to influence agricultural sector policy design and the Imihigo processes at the district and national levels.