Rwanda: Govt takes leap in efforts to make agric economic driver

The first phase of Agriculture Land Information System (ALIS) to help fast-track the Rwandan Government’s goal of transforming agriculture from subsistence to an economic engine has been launched.

The system, launched yesterday in Kigali, is hoped to enhance investment in agriculture to make it a market-oriented, value creating sector through online database about land use and state in Rwanda.

The system was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) in partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

It will allow regular monitoring of any particular piece of land and updates about the state of agriculture sector such as the construction of new feeder roads near farms, according to officials.

Officials said one of the main challenges to increased private investments in Rwanda is the lack of quick and accessible information on land available for commercial use by potential interested private investors.

Participants follow proceedings during the meeting. / Timothy Kisambira

ALIS, a web-based system that provides information to private sector investors on available land parcels in the country, was developed to help accelerate land identification and acquisition for investment purposes.

The application is available on computers, as well as smartphones with Android and iOS.

Speaking during the launch of the system in Kigali, yesterday, Octave Semwaga, director of planning and programmes at MINAGRI, said the system will help investors from anywhere in the world have easy access to land information, including size, general soil type, suitability to a given crop, current land use, electricity, proximity to roads and water sources, and agro-climatic conditions.

State Minister for Agriculture Fulgence Nsengiyumva speaks to media after launching the Agriculture Land Information System in Kigali. / Timothy Kisambira

“If an area has limited rainfalls, the investor will know that they need to develop irrigation project. An investor might need to set up an abattoir or slaughter house and, thus, needs to know whether there is electricity to enable the operation of their facility. This system will ease the process,” he said.

Agric on the up

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Fulgence Nsengiyumva, said agriculture has been contributing 33 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and has made remarkable improvement in poverty reduction over the last five years.

State Minister for Agriculture Fulgence Nsengiyumva launches the Agriculture Land Information System in Kigali. Timothy Kisambira

However, access to land has been a challenge to many local and foreign investors as it takes enormous time to identify suitable land for agriculture investment projects.

Nsengiyumva said MINAGRI has already mapped 48,000 agricultural land parcels measuring about 24,000 hectares, adding that the land is ready for lease to investors.

The US Ambassador to Rwanda, Erica J. Barks-Ruggles, said agriculture is important to the Rwandan economy as more than 70 per cent of Rwandans rely on agriculture for livelihood, adding that the new system will help promote the sector and enable creation of jobs.

“For every one per cent increase in agriculture income, the number of people in extreme poverty goes down by 1.8 per cent,” she said. “Increased income in agriculture will have considerable impact in alleviating poverty.”

The United States Ambassador to Rwanda, Erica J. Barks-Ruggles, gives her opening remarks. Timothy Kisambira

It will also interactively integrate online databases currently held by other institutions such as the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA), the Ministry of Infrastructure and the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).

With some 1.4 million hectares of arable land available in the country and about 12 million Rwandans, with 0.5 hectares of land per capita, there is a need for proper land use and management to maximise benefits, officials say.

Journalists attend a press conference after the launch of the Agriculture Land Information System in Kigali. / Timothy Kisambira

The second phase of the project is expected to be launched in 2017 on privately-owned land.

Rwanda targets agriculture growth of 8.5 percent in 2017/18 from the current 5.5 per cent.

Source: The New Times

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