Building Capacity for Rwanda’s Agricultural Transformation

By: Seth Kwizera, Claude Bizimana, and David J. Spielman

Rwanda’s Fourth Strategic Plan for Agricultural Transformation (PSTA IV) presents an ambitious plan to dramatically change the country’s agricultural sector and rural economy. Released in 2018, the plan forms a critical component of Vision 2050, which envisions Rwanda’s transformation into an upper middle income country by 2035 and a high income country by 2050.

PSTA IV’s goals are clear, and the spirit of cooperation around the plan is strong. But what does it really take to advance a transformational agenda from a planning document to action on the ground? And how does evidence shape this process?

These were key topics discussed at a national policy dialogue on “Building Productive Capacities for Rwanda’s Agricultural Transformation, Rural Development, and Food Security” held in Kigali on February 26, 2020, co-organized by the Economic Policy Network of Rwanda (EPRN), the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and Compact 2025. The event contributed to EPRN’s 2019 Annual Research Conference and was the first installment of the 2020 Food Security Portal country dialogue series. It received support from the European Union and Compact 2025. 

The dialogue brought together Rwanda’s economic policy research community, MINAGRI staff, representatives of other government ministries and agencies, development partners, non-governmental organizations, youth associations, and the private sector to explore some of the toughest questions surrounding PSTA IV’s implementation. 

Promising a rich exchange of ideas and far-reaching discussions, the dialogue aimed to strengthen the links between policy decision-makers and the research community, with the ultimate goal of supporting Rwanda’s national efforts to improve nutrition, food security, and food systems resilience. Several key messages emerged from the dialogue.

First, there is considerable appetite in Rwanda for the policy research community to do more in-depth analysis of the trends, patterns, and effects of public programs and private investment occurring in the agricultural sector and rural economy. The very notion that Rwanda is undergoing a structural transformation itself requires evidence, and the policy research community has a role to play in generating that evidence in a rigorous and thoughtful manner. 

Second, policy research requires the open exchange of data and information among government, researchers, private sector, and civil society. Structural transformation is both an economy-wide phenomenon and a human experience, and opportunities to better understand both channels require good data, information, and analysis. 

Third, the research community has an opportunity to focus its attention on the study of changing incentives in the agricultural sector and rural economy. Of particular interest are those incentives designed to encourage private investment in agribusiness development such as policy, regulation, business development services, and market information systems. 

Fourth, Rwanda’s government and the research community need to strike a balance between the monitoring of PSTA IV’s short-term indicators (e.g., changes in acreage under irrigation or kilometers of feeder roads) and the evaluation of longer term impacts (e.g., changes in productivity, income, and welfare outcomes). 

These messages have important implications for the types of data and range of methods used to study the trends, patterns, and effects of Rwanda’s unfolding agricultural transformation. Abundant opportunities exist to collect and combine data from multiple sources and to increase the use of economy-wide modeling, randomized controlled trials, econometrics, qualitative inquiry, and cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis of the programs being implemented under the PSTA IV by government, non-governmental organizations, and private companies.

In today’s busy world, there are precious few opportunities for researchers, top decision-makers in government and industry, and civil society to meet and share ideas, data, and evidence. This dialogue provided an important opportunity to do just that. And at the end of the day, it offered us an opportunity to forge new partnerships to advance the depth and breadth of policy analysis and capacity development in Rwanda.

Seth Kwizera is a Coordinator at the Economic Policy Research Network, Rwanda
Claude Bizimana is an Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Rwanda
David J. Spielman is a Senior Research Fellow in IFPRI’s Development Strategy and Governance Division

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Regional Portal Placement:: 
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EPRN