India-Rwanda Cooperation in Agriculture

ByAmb Manju Seth

India-Rwanda Cooperation in Agriculture

Rwanda, a small landlocked country in east-central Africa, has cordial relations with India and these have grown steadily over the years and gained impetus after the opening of a resident embassy by Rwanda in New Delhi in 2001. India opened its resident mission in 2018 in Kigali after the visit of the Prime Minister (PM).

There have been regular high-level interactions between the Ministers and senior officials of both countries and a number of visits to India by President Kagame of Rwanda including for the Founding Conference of the International Solar Alliance in 2018. Visits to Rwanda by the Vice President of India, Mr Hamid Ansari in 2017 and that of PM Narendra Modi, in July 2018, the first-ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Rwanda, further strengthened bilateral relations.

Rwanda is essentially an agrarian economy with about 70 percent of the population working in subsistence farming and agriculture contributing around 33 percent to the national GDP. Some of the main agricultural products are, besides coffee and tea (which are the main items of export), bananas, avocados, beans, sorghum, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, corn, livestock, etc. The government provides subsidies and maintains price control on agri-products. Given the importance of agriculture in the economies of both India and Rwanda, one of the key areas of collaboration between India and Rwanda is Agriculture. During the PMs visit an MOU on Dairy Cooperation between ICAR (National Dairy Research Institute) and Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Board and an Amendment to the MOU on Cooperation in Agriculture and Animal Resources were signed with an emphasis on research, technological development, capacity building, processing of dairy products, quality and safety as well as encouraging investments. Further, Line of Credit (LOC) Agreements were signed for US$ 100 million to finance components of Rwanda’s Agriculture Project Schemes. All these are reflective of the importance of the agricultural sector in bilateral ties and India’s endeavour to share its developmental experience under the overall rubric of South-South cooperation. The PM gifted 200 cows to the “Girinka Programme”, a social protection Scheme of one cow-one family and announced fully funded slots for short term training in the field of Dairy production and processing.

To make Rwandan products competitive in international markets, Rwanda has drawn up a six-year (2018-2024) strategic plan for the Agriculture sector focusing on shifting from subsistence farming to a more viable and market-led agriculture using technology. In 2019, the World Bank ranked Rwanda at the 29th place in its ‘Doing Business Index’ the only Low Income Country in the top 30. It is very easy to register a business in Rwanda and businesses can be registered online in a few hours. Rwanda aspires to be a Middle Income Country by 2035 and a High Income Country by 2050 and is pursuing policies to achieve this goal including inviting foreign investments in all sectors including agribusiness, through a Special Economic Zone set up in 2012. In 2016, the Rwandan government launched an online system to give information to investors about public land and its suitability for agricultural development. These measures present opportunities for Indian businesses to invest and produce agricultural products both for local consumption and export purposes.

India and Rwanda are collaborating at three levels: at the bilateral level, at the African Union (AU) level and at the level of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the engagement is guided through various decisions at the India-Africa Forum Summits (IAFS) held in 2008, 2011 and 2015. Under the IAFS, India assisted in establishing an Agricultural Seed production-cum Demonstration Centre and a Food Testing Laboratory in Rwanda. In 2013 India extended LOCs of US$120 million for the development of the Export Targeted Irrigated Agriculture Project and its expansion. Jain Irrigation, India’s largest micro-irrigation company, is executing a number of projects in Rwanda and has selected Rwanda as its hub in Africa. A number of Indian companies have invested in Rwanda including Assam’s Luxmi Tea and Mcleod Russell in the Tea sector. An Indian company from Kerala, Akay Flavours has grown four varieties of chillies in Rwanda and helped increase the income of farmers about six-fold benefitting 23 farmer communities. About ten Indian and Rwandan companies signed Business Engagement agreements (BEAs) in June 2018, under the India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Programme (IRIGP) focusing on five sectors including agriculture. This programme, being implemented by the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), aims to match the socio-economic requirements in Rwanda with leading-edge Indian technologies and innovation.

Given that India has strengths in the use of technology in agriculture to boost productivity and reduce costs, there is scope and untapped potential to work together in the Agri-Tech, Dairy and Food Processing sectors for mutual benefit. Despite many remarkable developments and improvements in the Agricultural and livestock sectors in Rwanda, challenges remain and India and Rwanda could work together to find affordable and viable solutions to overcome the challenges by using technology and innovative methods of production, marketing and export. Some of the challenges are dependence on rainfall, soil erosion, low productivity of crops and livestock, poor production techniques, inefficient farming practices, weak processing capacity, lack of storage and rural infrastructure including cold chain infrastructure. Indian farming equipment, tools and cost-effective technology could be adapted for reducing post-harvest losses, value addition to agricultural products and to improve irrigation in Rwanda. Micro-irrigation projects could be replicated across the country to enable crop growing throughout the year along with water harvesting projects to conserve water in the hilly terrains of Rwanda. Food Processing Units could be set up either as joint ventures or under Government schemes and this would certainly be a win-win for both sides. India could learn from Rwanda on best practices in rural development and agriculture as enunciated by the PM and both countries could identify areas of synergy to enhance cooperation in the Agricultural sector.

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