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Only 34% of Crops Harvested in Rwanda Reach the Market while Malnutrition Soars

Agriculture makes up over a third of Rwanda's economy, and yet productivity is low, malnutrition is unacceptably high, and only 34% of harvested crops are even reaching the market. What will it take to fix this system and make it work for everyone involved?

Agriculture employs over 70% of Rwanda’s labour force and makes up over a third of the country’s entire economy. Recognising how critical this sector is to Rwanda’s growth, the Rwandan government has increased its allocations to agriculture, and since 2007 there’s been steady annual growth of about six percent. Yet despite these gains, Rwanda’s agricultural productivity still remains low, and malnutrition is “unacceptably high” at 38% for children under five. Farmers are facing land degradation and soil erosion with less and less land available to use. Even after crops are harvested, only 34% actually reach the market because of a lack in technology, financing, and expertise for proper post-harvest production.

Palladium is working to make Rwanda’s agricultural markets more efficient, competitive, and inclusive of poor farmers, so the agriculture sector can truly support and advance Rwanda.

Partnerships are Key

Palladium is being funded by DFID to implement the Improving Market Systems in Rwanda for Agriculture (IMSAR) project. Our overall goal is to enable a “triple bottom line”: to improve the economic, social, and environmental performance of Rwanda’s agricultural markets.

First, Palladium is finding private sector partners who can design new business models and work with the Government of Rwanda to stimulate investments in rural markets. With new ways of working and targeted investments, we can help fuel inclusive economic growth in agriculture and drive private sector growth.

Tackling Systemic Constraints

We know that lasting, sustainable change can only come when we look at an entire ecosystem. In Rwanda, agricultural productivity has stayed low and malnutrition has stayed high because there are systemic constraints against the smallholder, often poor, farmers. IMSAR will use interventions that are designed to realign incentive structures, rules, and relationships to reshape the way these farmers can access and participate in the markets. By forming new partnerships and new linkages throughout the market ecosystem, Palladium ensures that farmers, investors, and other partners will see real long-term success without Palladium needing to always be involved. As more people see the economic and social benefits of these interventions, they can be scaled throughout the agricultural industry and even replicated in other sectors.

Everyone Must Benefit

During our pilot phase of IMSAR, we are staying focused on two key things:

  • How do our partners, or “early adopters” respond to behaviour and practice changes; and,
  • How do the stakeholders in the wider market system react to these new behaviours and practices?

We don’t want any partner or stakeholder to only buy-in partially. Unless we have full buy-in from the farmers, processors, investors, partners, and every stakeholder in the system, our outcomes will stay small, exclusive, and likely to reverse. The market must benefit every person within it in order for it to become sustainable and scalable.

Rwanda already recognises the huge importance and potential of its agricultural sector. Its government has shown commitment to improving agriculture, and year after year there have been improvements. Yet it’s clear not everyone within the sector is benefitting. With IMSAR, Palladium is looking to bring benefits to each person, by improving the incomes of smallholder farmers, driving private sector growth, and growing the country’s overall economy. We’re not just training farmers with a new tool, but reshaping the agricultural market ecosystem so everyone can – and wants – to participate.