Post-harvest losses account for 15-30 percent in Rwanda’s agriculture productivity. These losses have impacted the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
Any strategy to reduce these losses needs to focus on farmers, while increasing household incomes would be an added asset.
Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) developed a Post-Harvest Strategy back in 2011 mainly to guide the sector on prevention of losses for farmers, mapping out needs of farmers and gauging the establishment of post-harvest centers. The strategy also called for establishment of a framework to support food security in Rwanda. Despite the strategy being well intentioned, farmers especially in rural settings continue to experience pre and post-harvest losses due to contamination of aflatoxin, leading to poor quality of produce and low incomes.
Despite the strategy having been in use since 2011, there was need to update it to align it with new challenges, needs of farmers and better post-harvest management.
In 2020, the EU funded Technical Assistance, TECAN project, worked with MINAGRI, the Rwanda Agricultural Board and Animal Resources (RAB) as well as other actors to develop and update the Post-Harvest Strategy and its implementation plan. The study involved field tours to all districts to collect vital data about Post Harvest Handling (PHH).
This has allowed MINAGRI to leverage resources for the post-harvest investment and guide interventions from both public and private sector. The activity included a survey of the existing PHH infrastructures, and deliberate efforts to train RAB PHH personnel for sustainability of PHH intervention by TECAN.
“This activity is going to help MINAGRI and RAB to have a clear inventory of PHH infrastructures in the country, establish farmers’ needs, establish gaps in the PHH sector and support the development of the PHH policy and strategies to follow to establish PHH interventions responding to farmers’ needs”, said Illuminee Kamaraba, Head of PHH division at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).
She says RAB and the Ministry will be able to develop activity interventions from the study carried out so far which will reduce duplication of PHH activities, inform partners and help the Ministry to better plan for this sector that seems to have been lacking credible data. .
The study done by TECAN established a detailed inventory with up-to-date images depicting the status of existing PHH infrastructure and farmers’ inferences about their needs and challenges faced as well as their knowledge about PHH importance. The study information and data not available before will help all actors interested in investing in infrastructure and technology or providing access to capital to farmers, to implement PHH interventions without duplicating services.
According to Kamaraba, the study will also help RAB to provide the farmers with low-cost, low-tech applications which are within farmer’s reach and can meet their needs.
Conducted by a team of assessors from the Ministry of Local Government, NISR and MINAGRI technical staff, the survey included the use of various survey and analytical tools such as Kob Tool Box, DHIS2, Tablet, Power BI and data management from surveys. Holistically, the study outcome is expected to assist MINAGRI to make informed decisions and able to monitor and update information about PHH centers and other related aspects that support PHH. A team of certified assessors will also continue to assist MINAGRI to conduct surveys on demand basis by providing accurate data for policy monitoring and planning.