WARSAW, Poland (21 November 2013) — Rwanda has made major strides in repairing degraded lands and restoring agricultural productivity, correcting “huge mistakes” in land management that were made in the past, the country’s top agricultural official said.
Africa’s most densely populated country is highly dependent on agriculture — 80 percent of the population relies on farming for its livelihood, said Agnes Kalibata, Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture. Speaking recently to an audience of 1,200 at the Global Landscapes Forum, a 2-day side event to the UN climate change negotiations in Warsaw, Kalibata said her country has made hard-fought changes to the way it manages its land. “We use the environment the way we’ve always used it,” she said. “And we’ve made huge mistakes.”
Among those mistakes was the widespread clearing of Rwanda’s forested areas, which led to widespread erosion and soil degradation. In order to restore the land, Kalibata said, the national government had to temporarily move 9,000 families off the land. This top-down approach extended further: Now, by law, only certain types of farming are permitted in these areas. Yet it has yielded benefits: Programs to increase productivity, soil fertility and terrace management have helped pull 1 million Rwandans out of poverty in five years, Kalibata said, adding that productivity has increased six-fold during this period.
But top-down alone won’t achieve the country’s development goals — and now the government is looking at the wider landscape toward a more inclusive paradigm. In shifting to a “landscapes approach” to development — one that is inclusive of more stakeholders and addresses all land uses and land-use dynamics in a holistic view — Rwanda has moved rapidly.
The government has worked to build partnerships with donor and development agencies, seeking to boost agricultural and climate resilience and capacity among farmers, particularly smallholders and women. “Supporting women and empowering women farmers to be part of production systems, especially in fragile environments like ours, is extremely important,” Kalibata said.
Lamenting the lack of private investment in the country, Kalibata was optimistic that the country’s public-sector commitment to improving its infrastructure and its landscapes will reap benefits. “If we do this, then we can engage the private sector as well,” she said.
Watch Kalibata’s speech here
Bruno Vander Velde at CIFOR: email@example.com
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The Global Landscapes Forum was co-convened by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) on behalf of the 14 organizations of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, and by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), on behalf of an international consortium of 12 leading Agriculture and Rural Development organizationsin collaboration with the host country partners: Poland’s Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the University of Warsaw. For more information, visit www.landscapes.org.