By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
NGOs representing Rwandan Farmers Organizations have urged the Government to emphasize more on farmers during the implementation of COVID 19 comprehensive economic recovery plan.
The call was made on Wednesday, 21 May 2020 during an Interactive session aired on Isango Star’s TV and Radio Station.
The session brought together representatives from Rwanda Development Organizations, Imbaraga Farmers Organization as well as representatives from Sun Alliance which is an umbrella of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Rwanda to promote sensitive and specific nutrition actions.
Members of the above mentioned NGOs revealed that the Agriculture and Livestock sector is among the sectors affected by the COVID 19 both on farmer’s level and harvest markets.
Gafaranga Joseph, the Secretary General/Imbaraga Farmers Organization noted that “Despite presence of enough harvests in general, there were many negative impacts arose from the COVID 19 lockdown which was established in order to contain the spread of Corona Virus pandemic.”
He said that “Until today, the global view of Agriculture and Livestock is good.” However, he adds, “Farmers have failed to access markets for their produce because most of the agricultural harvest’s clients were not available since their businesses have closed and this also led to the damages of the already harvested produce before the lockdown to be announced.”
He added that “Even the Price on the market fell significantly because farmers were hurry to sell their harvests in abundance which made the clients also to manipulate the cost.”
According to Rwibasira Eugene, the Executive Director at Rwanda Development Organizations the effects of COVID 19 on farmers are obvious so that there is a need of stakeholders’ rigorous efforts to manage the levitated challenges.
Rwibasira said that ‘COVID 19 should be a lesson to stakeholders in Agriculture and that lesson learnt should be utilized in the future in order to avoid similar challenges.’
“For instance, during the Outbreak of COVID 19, 1kg of maize cost Rwf 300, however after, it emerged that the cost per Kg slashed immediately because farmers started to sell all harvest fearing the loss.” He said.
“To avoid such scenarios in the future, there should be a long-term solution, where Government will join efforts with key agriculture and livestock players to train farmers on how to manage the post-harvest, add value to their harvests, and add more efforts in the post COVID 19 Agro-actions.” He added.
Rwibasira also noted that it is obvious that there was failure in disease control among farmers because those in charge of helping farmers on technics of dealing with crop diseases were not easily available to farmers due to COVID 19 lockdown.
“So the Government through the Recovery program should look into how farmers also can benefit from that program in order to be able to cope with the COVID 19 impacts especially on agriculture and livestock sector.” He said.
On the other hands, Muhamyankaka Venuste, Director of Programmes at Sun Alliance, revealed that COVID 19 has likely affected the food security in terms of access to quality food products.
He said that “There have been cases of malnutrition because some fortified food products were not easily found on the market as before. Some manufacturers have reduced the production because of fear that they may lack clients, and even community outreach programs to fight malnutrition were affected. So, from that, the Government also should consider the recovery programs meant for the fight against malnutrition.” Muhamyankaka revealed.
He requested all organizations who are members of Sun Alliance to join efforts in dealing with the effects of COVID 19 while at the same time working hard to fill gaps originated from the pandemic’ effects as well as renewing their commitment in doing productive agriculture to respond not only to current situation but also to the future similar scenarios.