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The New Times – Rwanda
Today is World Habitat Day. The day, which falls on the first Monday of October, serves as an opportunity to draw attention to the state of cities and towns and recommit to sustainable urbanisation that leaves no one behind.
This year, the day will be observed under the theme, “Frontier Technologies as an innovative tool to transform waste into wealth”. This is a theme that particularly resonates with Rwanda’s development ambition, with the country seeking to increasingly leverage technology and innovation to address some of the traditional and emerging challenges that undermine sustainable urbanisation and adequate shelter.
Yet there are issues that continue to dog the country’s sustainable urbanisation efforts, such as the challenges associated with management of solid waste and lack of a central sewerage system for major cities, especially the City of Kigali. There are also challenges related to residents who continue to live in disaster-prone areas, while there are also limited public green spaces in urban centres that are key to healthy urban living.
Generally, there is a consensus on the challenges that affect our cities and towns, as well as what needs to be done to address them.
Nonetheless, sometimes those in charge don’t show the necessary urgency to reverse the trend. For instance, it’s been years since authorities set out the fix the issue of lack of a central sewerage system in the City of Kigali – a problem that constitutes a ticking time bomb – but the effort remains shrouded in bureaucracy and red tape.
As the country joins the rest of the world to mark Habitat Day, it’s critical that authorities approach these challenges with a sense of urgency, in the same way, the Government has treated other equally important endeavours like healthcare, security and environmental protection.
The New Times (Kigali)
By Collins Mwai
Rwanda, like many developing countries, is in the process of transforming its agriculture sector to ensure food security, diversify exports and create more jobs among, other objectives.
However, the goals and projections face challenges of climate change, little participation by the youth and low private sector participation among others.
The New Times’ Collins Mwai spoke with Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank Vice President for Africa, on the state of food security and malnutrition in the region as well as ways to change the status quo.
Below are excerpts:
The agriculture sector in most African countries is pretty much traditional, with little technological input and little interest from the youth. What interventions could change this trend?
We need to work on a comprehensive strategy for agriculture which includes working on sectors that are outside agriculture. The agriculture sector itself and beyond. We need to work on emerging technologies and sciences, using digital economies, satellite technology so that we can improve productivity and resilience to climate change.
But that too would not be enough for two reasons. The first is that we see young people leaving agriculture because it’s not attractive to them. We need to make it more profitable to make it more attractive. But young people leave agriculture for many other reasons, they do not want to stay in villages and rural areas as often there is a lack of amenities such as electricity, internet among others.
That means we need rural electrification among others. Today, to do rural electrification, you can use solar solutions that are not as expensive and affordable.
Climate change hasn’t made things any easier for stakeholders...
We now need to use new improved seeds that are resistant to drought, temperature, and other adverse conditions. We are introducing new varieties of working with scientists and others.
Through IT, drones and satellites, you can predict and prepare for changes. For instance, if the climatic conditions lead to certain crop disease, you can be able to predict that and mitigate it in advance. With that, you can inform and help farmers how to deal with the issue.
There have been previous interventions to revamp and improve the agricultural output, but not much came of them. Looking back, what would you say are some of the lessons to be picked?
We need to look at the objective of agriculture which is food security and fighting malnutrition. The number of food-insecure people is increasing, malnutrition is a serious problem. We have one out of three children in Africa being stunted. These are people who are unlikely to reach their full maximum physical and mental development.
This is our objective. We need to make sure that no African child goes to bed hungry or malnourished. We also need people to know what are the right foods for them and their children.
This takes me to a point of women empowerment, we do have enough food to avoid the problems of stunting. The main reason why our children are stunted is that mothers do not know what the right food composition for their children is. Often, it’s because mothers are too young, the median age for African women is 16.6 years, which means that half of the African women are married and have children before the age of 16.
That means its children bringing up children hence the mortality and stunting rates. We need a wholesome approach. We need to delay their marriage also to make sure that at least they can complete school. So when we talk about food security and agriculture, we have to look at other problems around it. We can produce all the food we can but if mothers do not know how to feed their children, we will not get the results that we seek.
What does the World Bank make of Rwanda’s agriculture strategies and interventions currently being rolled out?
When we work with countries, we need to have solutions that are beyond agriculture. In Rwanda it’s pretty clear that there are vision and strategy, we need to develop infrastructure and introduce technologies that will improve productivity. Many countries in Africa are now doing a comprehensive approach and women empowerment.
For instance, schools need to accommodate girls. In some countries, we are not doing conditional cash transfers where we provide money for welfare to families on the condition that they keep girls in school as well as provide economic opportunities. Maternal and reproductive health is part of the solution to have a wholesome approach.
Private sector involvement is evidently low despite what looks like multiple opportunities for investment. Why are investors uninterested?
We need an increase in participation by the private sector. We need to treat the sector as a business. We need to make sure that there are market incentives for that to happen. We need to look at the entire value chain not just farming but transformation as well to enable access to markets and value addition.
African Union member states declared that they would allocate about 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture activities under the Malabo Declaration. Few have since complied; could it be among the reasons we are still struggling with food insecurity?
Where there is a will there is a way and if agriculture is a priority, it’s possible to reallocate finances to meet the threshold. We also need to realize that many countries, especially those in conflict face very difficult budget situations. For instance countries, in the Sahel region.