Rwanda Builds on WFP Expertise To Strengthen Farming

As the world’s largest humanitarian agency, the WFP uses its procurement needs to boost agriculture in developing nations through its Purchase for Progress (P4P) programmes. Rwanda has taken this initiative a step further by working with WFP to build a national strategy to facilitate government procurement needs, known as Common P4P (CP4P). 

KIGALI – As part of its commitment to eradicate the causes of hunger, WFP works with smallholder farmers through its Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative to improve access to markets and boost knowledge about farming and post-harvest techniques.

In Rwanda, the government has replicated this P4P model to create Common P4P (CP4P) to support public procurement as part of its policy to transform the agricultural sector. 

Farmers and government officials from Ghana and Kenya travelled to “the land of 1,000 hills” in August to see how this innovative collaboration is working out.  

“People say Rwanda is a country of 1,000 hills (but) to me Rwanda is a land of 1,000 things to learn about economic development,” said Richard Barwecho Rono, who represented the Lolgorian farmers’ organization from Kenya. 

Twenty representatives from farmers’ organizations, WFP and the governments of Kenya and Ghana took part in the week-long visit to understand the evolution of the Rwandan government’s ownership of the CP4P initiative.

“The government of Rwanda has created an excellent environment for linking farmers to markets. This makes it easier for all actors, including the private sector, to contribute to the goals of P4P,” said Zippy Mbati, WFP’s P4P country coordinator in Kenya.

“Although this may be difficult to replicate in Kenya, we have an opportunity to advocate with newly established county governments to create a similar environment,” she added.

Building on P4P lessons

WFP has adopted a range of innovative programmes to deliver food assistance while strengthening communities’ abilities to withstand cyclical shocks such as drought. As well as providing traditional food rations during emergencies, WFP provides cash or vouchers for training, or for work on assets such as roads and dams, as part of its drive to eliminate hunger, and the causes of hunger. The P4P programmes in countries around the world are part of these innovative approaches to build resilience.

In Rwanda, WFP launched its five-year P4P pilot in August 2009 and selected 25 cooperatives, representing around 6,500 women farmers and 7,600 male farmers. The primary goal of the P4P programme is to support the government’s efforts to boost agricultural production and improve income for smallholder farmers. 

Partners provide training on production and marketing, and improve the organizational capacity of farmers’ cooperatives, while WFP’s procurement offers an initial market for smallholders. By June 2013, WFP had purchased over 7,000 metric tons of maize and beans, worth US$3 million from smallholder farmers in 20 cooperatives.

Agriculture employs about 80 percent of Rwanda’s population and accounts for around 33 percent of GDP. The sector is dominated by small-scale, subsistence farmers, and because of small farm sizes, declining soil fertility and poor rainfall, overall productivity is low. However, the potential for growth is high. The greatest constraints include limited access to storage and poor knowledge of storage practices.

In its bid to transform this sector, the Rwandan government has focused on land consolidation, increasing production, reducing post-harvest losses and strengthening smallholder cooperatives. 

It looked to WFP’s P4P pilot to inform its approach. This meant it could adapt an already tested strategy, a set of tools and an embedded capacity-building programme for procuring directly from smallholder-based organizations. 

In 2011, Rwanda's ministry of agriculture and WFP signed an agreement to collaborate on Common P4P. Rwandan authorities have been able to build on existing methods, tools and lessons to stimulate production and improve the capacity of smallholder farmers to deal with larger buyers.

So far, over 20,000 farmers from 54 cooperatives, registered under CP4P, have been trained in post-harvest handling and storage by P4P and its partners. The Rwandan government now purchases its food from a larger number of smallholder cooperatives across the country, with procurement by the government’s National Strategic Reserve from CP4P cooperatives reaching just over 6,100 tons between 2011 and 2013. 

Paradigm shift

The Rwandan government’s commitment to the scheme was noted by the visiting delegates.
“I am impressed that the Rwandan government makes an agreement with farmers on the amount of land to be cultivated on a certain crop and in that way provides a guaranteed market for the harvest,” said Abraham Kigotho, chairman of the Wamuini Soko Huru farmers’ organisation in Kenya.

“The Rwanda government has demonstrated a true paradigm shift in agricultural development by moving away from the traditional widely practiced top-bottom approach to a bottom-up approach where the farmer is in the driving seat,” said Samuel Adjei from WFP’s P4P team in Ghana. 

“This is worth emulating in Ghana.”