What tools are the needed to support smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa?
Agriculture is the backbone of economies in most of developing countries. Most farmers practice subsistence agriculture under severe climate conditions and it is very challenging for them to produce for their families and local markets.
In Rwanda, more than 75% of the total population is involved in Agriculture and this sector merely contributes to around a third of our GDP. I am one the several agronomists who work with rural smallholder farmers in remote communities. I got involved in agriculture because I had a chance of being exposed to farming as my father used to take us to countryside during our school holidays. A few years after, when the government granted me with a scholarship to study agriculture sciences, I grabbed the chance.
Since then I have never regretted that choice because working alongside farmers is one of the most fulfilling and inspiring part of my life. They have brought me to twist my mind about agriculture and view it as the spine of all other domains. Basically because if we don’t cultivate, we can’t produce food and if don’t eat how are we going to survive and achieve all of the wonders that humans have created so far?
I also love to see that every farming system is challengingly different from another and that what works here can perfectly be duplicated elsewhere or simply fail. This brings us to think more, and provide smart solutions that are well adapted to local contexts.
On the other hand, this makes it complicated to timely support smallholder farmers to overcome various issues that they face on a daily basis.
For instance, Rwanda is of the most densely populated countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also nicknamed the land of thousand hills because of its hilly topography. Households and farms are on the hillsides and farmers have no other choice other than growing their crops on eroded plots where heavy rains leach their healthy soils, leaving farmers powerless.
This extremely affects their productivity and threatens their food security at household level. For farmers who supply their produce at local markets or local agribusiness factories, they suffer even more. Because feeder roads are not well established in all corners of the country. Another challenge is that during the harvest periods, with limited post harvest handling facilities and produce surpluses on the markets, businessmen tend to take advantage of the availability and excess of certain crops and dramatically lower the prices at the expense of smallholder farmers, whose challenges are numerous.
I am very excited about the Youth in Landscapes Initiative in Paris because I want to meet other leaders and professionals who have the background, expertise and experience to work and support farmers and who can strengthen my technical and soft skills. I want to discuss how agriculture is funded around the world and what are the best tools we can use to advocate for farmers to have access to finance and technology that can help them to revolutionize their farming practices.
We are in an evolving world driven by economic development where each country has set ambitious targets; I would like to hear how middle and high income countries have succeeded to involve farmers in their development strategies and if it was done in environmentally friendly ways. Finally I want to learn technologies that can be well adapted to Rwanda so I can better support farmers that I work with daily .