By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
Kigali: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Rwanda’s Ministry of agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), the Ministry of Environment and other partners such as IKEA Foundation are working closely to chart the way to accelerate sustainable agriculture practice in Rwanda.
With Nature Based Solutions being at the forefront, Rwanda seeks to promote agriculture practices that are protecting the environment and biodiversity, according to researchers and other scientists who convened in Kigali to discuss Sustainable agriculture.
TOP AFRICA NEWS has learnt that under the guidance of MINAGRI and Rwanda’s Ministry of Environment, IUCN was requested by the government of Rwanda to mainstream conservation into agriculture by nature Based solutions as 100% of the country’s food comes from nature.
MINAGRI, MoE, IUCN, other partners in a joint move to accelerate Sustainable Agriculture
As background information, IUCN started operating in Rwanda around 2011 with special focus on forests and landscape restoration.
However it came to the Rwanda office in 2016 to support the government of Rwanda in achieving its biodiversity and climate resilience objectives, through scientific and evidence, standards and tools, such as nature based solutions in community approaches.
With the current pressure of saving the biodiversity and environment while at the same time working to produce enough food for over 13 million people, Rwanda is looking at possible solutions that are supportive to promoting sustainable farming systems that restore and conserve biodiversity in agricultural landscapes as well as sustainably enhancing food production.
As explained by Ms. Kaori Yasuda, IUCN Rwanda Country Representative, Rwanda is prioritizing mainstreaming nature conservation into major economic activities, such as agriculture, by deploying nature based solutions towards green growth.
Ms. Kaori who was speaking at a dialogue to discuss sustainable agriculture in Kigali revealed that “In this regard, As IUCN, we prioritize that transitioning to sustainable agriculture by improving land health, conserving biodiversity, and the future viability of food f production for farmers, We focus on demonstrating how nature based solutions can boost on farm crop productivity and biodiversity and conserve biodiversity in agricultural landscapes.”
“This can be achieved through initiating the platform like today’s experience and knowledge harmonization of understanding and dialogue on promoting nature based solutions in the Rwandan context.” She added.
Ms. Kaori explained that IUCN uses global standards for nature based solutions as a framework for designing, implementing and scaling up Nature based solution interventions for multiple societal benefits for local communities and farmers.
“Finally, we promote sustainable agriculture at the policy level, through embedding nature based solutions for building resilient landscape management.” She added.
According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and animal resources, Dr. Olivier Kamana, with the current development focus of the food and agriculture sector of many developing and emerging economies, including Rwanda, it is impossible to expand arable land without putting more effort into food security as well as advance sustainable and commercial agriculture.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and animal resources, Dr. Olivier Kamana
He explained that in past experience, it has also shown that production can be increased in a more sustainable way when environmental protection is integrated into agriculture value chain development such as agroforestry, conservation agriculture, erosion control, rehabilitation of degraded forests, and concurrent reclamation of marshlands.
“With that experience, we need to change the direction of the loss of biodiversity in agricultural areas (above and underground) to achieve sustainable production systems.” Dr. Kamana said.
“Agricultural activities through improper production techniques should be impeded for better land use, reduce biodiversity loss, and improve ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, and water quality and climate regulation.” He added.
Sustainable agriculture as a response to food security
According to Dr. Jules Rutebuka, IUCN Regional Sustainable agriculture Programme Officer, “Among the challenges we have in SDGs is food security and food insecurity, we need to combat it and bring improved livelihoods in every fertile land.”
Apart from saving biodiversity, Dr. Rutebuka added that “IUCN is also prioritizing sustainable agriculture to improve the land health of the soil, the land in agriculture, and improve also the production because we want to feed our people”
For the Nature Based solution in Rwanda’s context, Dr. Rutebuka explained that its implementation should start with what farmers need.
He said “farmers need soil with organic fertilizer because they can get manure fertilizer, but they need organic fertilizer sources. If they get open sources, we have to look for different alternatives to get organic fertilizer sources and one of the solutions is to have that diversified agroforestry system.”
Apart from organic fertilizers, he also noted that farmers need to practice crop rotation system, crop covers and other technologies of conservation agriculture such as mulching, crop residue retention, and use of improved vegetated fallows, among others.”
“But primarily in Rwanda, farmers need agroforestry,” He added.
This was also emphasized by Dr. Concorde NSENGUMUREMYI (Ph.D.) Director General of Rwanda Forestry Authority who reminded that in Rwanda, “We understand that our shared prosperity depends on our relationships with the nature and that is why the environment sits at the heart of our vision 2050 Climate Action Plans, green growth and climate resilient strategies.”
“So, one of the best practices we are doing is an agroforestry which is really recognised to contribute to sustainable development of intensified and productive agriculture through the provision of ecosystem services and diversification of the production.” Dr. Nsengumuremyi said.
He congratulates IUCN for selecting Rwanda as one of the priority countries for conservation.
“I hope you will all benefit from this information that will be shared and I encourage each one to contribute to today’s dialogue on sustainable agriculture. Together, we can all work together toward accelerating the global transition to sustainable agriculture across the entire country.” He concludes.
By providing global leadership on land health, IUCN will pave the way for future progress in other, more controversial issues related to agriculture and biodiversity loss. The initiative will build consensus between conservation and agriculture actors over the conservation benefits of sustainable farming, the value of these benefits to society, as well as possible trade-offs, and suitable rewards and other incentives that can promote environmental stewardship.