Quick food security measures needed
The country is experiencing below normal rainfall even as we come close to the end of April, traditionally one of the wet months in our weather calendar.
Weather forecasting experts have indeed confirmed that the light rains in some parts of the country at the moment are unusual and have therefore warned of likely effects on food production and agricultural in general—the country’s main economic activity.
Normally, most of the country would start getting rain in March and climaxing in the period between April and May—the main planting season for farmers.
However, there is hardly enough moisture to support any meaningful planting of food crops so far. Without any doubt, this is likely to cause shortage of food in the months to come. With the weather situation elsewhere in the region not any better, there is a very big possibility that the entire region could experience severe shortage of food if the weather does not improve.
The result therefore will be a surge in food prices which in turn increases inflationary pressure on the largely agriculture-based economies of the region.
Luckily, the ministry of agriculture is aware of the prevailing situation and has tabled the issue before Cabinet for appropriate action whose outcome is expected soon.
But as Cabinet ponders the next course action to avert looming food shortage, we suggest that farmers should be encouraged to quickly take advantage of the scanty rain and plant early maturing crops such as beans, peace and maize.
In the meantime, measures should be taken to limit export of food from the previous season without necessary hurting the incomes of those farmers who invested in its production.
The ministry of agriculture can also work with local, civic and religious leaders to rollout a mass sensitization campaign to encourage farmers to store some food for their own consumption as one of the short-term measures to deal with this situation.
Otherwise, more effort should be put in building infrastructure for longer-term measures that aim at reducing dependence on rain-fed agriculture.
Such infrastructure includes water harvesting for irrigation. Currently, there are just about 23,000 ha of are agricultural land under irrigation country-wide with only1000ha on hills. While this is a commendable start, it means that the bulk of farmers cannot simply plant any crop unless it has rained. Yet with the growing effects of global warming, it is hard to see sustainable agriculture that is dependant on rain.
We understand that the ministry plans to have about 100,000 ha under irrigation by 2017. This indeed will go along way in guaranteeing that Rwandans the next meal. That is the way to go.