Building on Strength: Trees for Food Security project launched in Rwanda
A new agroforestry project in Rwanda will apply trees on farms to further bolster the country’s gains in achieving long-term food security. On 9th August, Rwanda’s Natural Resources Management Minister Hon. Stanislas Kamanzi joined 55 project team members to launch the new initiative,Trees for Food Security, at a workshop convened by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Rwanda Agriculture Board, and partners.
The four-year, four-country action research project will be carried out in Rwanda and Ethiopia initially, and expand to Burundi and Uganda starting 2014. Funded largely by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), it will be implemented by a multidisciplinary partnership of international and national institutions, including three CGIAR Consortium Research Centers (World Agroforestry Centre, CIMMYT and ILRI), CSIRO, World Vision, and partner-country national agricultural research centres and universities.
Minister Kamanzi said the Rwandan government recognized the role of agroforestry in boosting the productivity and resilience of agricultural land. “The Trees for Food Security project’s objectives are in tune with Rwanda’s development agenda on farming, food security and natural resources management,” he said.
According to recent statistics, by 2011 just three out of the Rwanda’s 30 districts faced any level of food insecurity. Nonetheless, the minister observed that Rwanda’s undulating topography, found on around 80% of the farmland, is prone to soil erosion and landslides that remove the fertile volcanic topsoil, leaving farmers vulnerable to low yields. Furthermore, although rainfall is generallypredictable and plentiful in most areas, changing global climate has caused periods of drought to become more frequent in the country. “The new project will support the government’s efforts to ensure enough food supply for all citizens and build our environmental resilience,” he said.
In his message to the workshop, ICRAF director general Dr. Tony Simons said the Rwandan government’s confidence in the benefits of agroforestry, gained through experience, was a great asset to the project. “The new project will use the proven ability of trees on farms to combat erosion, fertilize soil, raise crop yields, improve household nutrition and income, and contribute to climate-change preparedness,” he stated.
Researchers will work among smallholder farming communities in the Bugesera lowland area to the east and the more hilly Gishwati area to the west of Rwanda. Farmers here grow a combination of maize, beans, sorghum, potatoes, banana, rice, soybeans, peas, cassava, and bananas for domestic consumption, and tea and coffee for cash and export. The project’s main aim will be to promote “best fit” agroforestry methods and while doing so, gather knowledge that can be modeled to fit multiple agroecologies. Indeed, the knowledge gained in Rwanda will be applied to similar areas of Burundi and Uganda during the project’s third and fourth years. Beyond promoting ‘the right trees for the right place’—certainly the starting point for any agroforestry undertaking—project staff will look at seed and seedling systems, value chains and market opportunities, as well as capacity strengthening.
Rwanda is no stranger to agroforestry. Indeed, the government’s programs to improve and intensify food and livestock production in the country have a strong agroforestry leaning. Dr. Jean Jacques Mbonigaba, Director-General of the Rwanda Agriculture Board, the project’s main local implementing partner, explained that at just under 26,500 sq. km, and with 93% of the country’s 8 million people involved in agriculture, there is very little spare land for large-scale conventional forestry. “Agroforestry, for us, is the better option,” he said.
“The Trees for Food Security project will demonstrate the innovative role of trees in food security and land-care,” said ACIAR’s Tony Bartlett, noting that the project relates to all the elements of ACIAR’mandate, namely food security, livelihoods, smallholders, and sustainable systems.
The large increase in farm-tree cover expected as a result of the newTrees for Food Security project, coupled with the government’s own initiatives to boost food security using agroforestry, might in the coming years well cause Rwanda to be known as the ‘Land of a ThousandGreen Hills’.
Link to project website: http://worldagroforestry.org/project/aciar
Follow project on twitter @icraf #treesforfoodsecurity
Link to Ethiopia story Trees for Food Security project launched in Ethiopia
Trees for Food Security: new project launch in Africa http://aciar.gov.au/node/14729