COVID-19 significantly impacts horticulture value chains and business continuity in Rwanda-Research

On 6 October 2020 at 02:33

Oxfam in Rwanda and the Economic Policy Research Network (EPRN) have co-organized a policy dialogue on impacts of COVID-19 on the horticulture sub-sector and how these have affected business continuity in the same sector.

The dialogue brought together over 112 participants including government institutions, Non-governmental Organizations, Community Based Organizations, Development Partners, academicians, members of the private sector and media.

The dialogue was based on an independent rapid assessment undertaken between June and July 2020 in eight district of Rwanda (Nyagatare, Kirehe, Musanze, Gakenke, Rulindo, Kamonyi, Muhanga, and Nyamagabe) and surveyed farmers and enterprises dealing with 22 various horticulture crops.

Speaking today during the policy dialogue, Dr Charles Ruranga, EPRN’s Chairperson of Board of Directors said: ‘’We are joining Oxfam to reiterate the need for action to be taken now by all actors including the

Private sector, as any delay only serves to worsen the already fragile situation of those affected by this global pandemic, and make the recovery process more expensive.’’

Oxfam in Rwanda Country Director, Mrs. Alice Anukur added: “This rapid assessment’s main objective was to collect scientific facts and evidence of the issues faced by horticulture value chains’ stakeholders as they battle the difficult effects of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that such dialogue will multiply in various platforms, as we all seek to provide strong recommendations to various entities for policy programming interventions to support many smallholder farmers’ families who are among those who have been mostly affected by this global pandemic.’’

COVID-19 pandemic is bringing not only global health risks, but also unprecedented economic damages and agriculture is among the affected sectors.

Prior to COVID-19, Rwandan horticulture sub-sector was playing a crucial role in the country’s economy and it contributed about 50% of non-traditional export revenues and provided income to hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.

Fruits and vegetables covered an estimated 1.18% and 0.47% of the aggregate land occupied by all crops in Season A 2020 compared to 1.14% and 0.63% and 6.0% of the previous Season A 2019 (NISR, 2018).

However, the sub-sector is still dominated by smallholder farmers with per capita land size of 0.6 ha; weak market linkages to agribusinesses, limited and non-competitive input providers, processors, and traders.

Similarly, weak market- oriented production and aggregation, low value chain development and market connectivity constitute some of the major constraints that the government continues to address. Additionally, women who are outnumbering men in horticultural organizations by significant margin of 56.5% to 44.5% are yet to profit from the benefit of the sub-sector.

The Oxfam study and today’s dialogue have highlighted recovery pathways while acknowledging Rwanda’s efforts already undertaken including budget allocation to Agriculture sector in the recovery plan, providing safety nets (food distribution) as part of social protection, making essential the Agriculture services during the lockdown, innovations around e-commerce, supporting local exporters by negotiating subsidized (40%) price for transportation with RwandAir, supporting farmers in aggregating, making markets attractive to foreign investors and dealing with pre-COVID-19 existing challenges like availing agricultural inputs.

The dialogue was enriched by panelists from key institutions and diverse participants from the sector with recommendations and lessons learned including strengthening coordination, information sharing, sustaining dialogue, better targeted response that is informed by deeper gender analysis and effective involvement of private sector.

Oxfam and EPRN highly recommend that that COVID-19 response must target those in most need who are least able to cope with the shocks caused by the pandemic.

The effects of this pandemic have worsened an already delicate sub-sector which was supposed to benefit many women and contribute significantly to reducing poverty and food insecurity in many rural areas of Rwanda.

If decisions are not implemented faster and support provided soon to smallholder farmers and other horticulture value chain actors to respond to the impacts of COVID-19, the situation could become irreversible or remain for much longer and become more expensive to remedy.

Theresie Nyirantozi, a member of Tuzamurane Cooperative weeding her pineapple field in Kirehe District. Photo by Oxfam