RWANDA – The National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) has unveiled the Promoting Smallholder Agro-Export Competitiveness project (PSAC), a USD 62.89 million initiative aimed at transforming the export capabilities of Rwanda’s smallholder farmers.

Funded by IFAD, Cordaid, the government of Spain, and Heifer International, the project targets 56,695 households, benefitting around 255,128 individuals.

Eric Kabayiza, NAEB’s coordinator, highlighted the project’s commitment to gender inclusivity, stating, “At least 40 per cent of the beneficiaries will be women, and 20 per cent are female-headed households. At least 30 per cent will be youth targeted by fostering access to wage employment and creating space for youth leadership development in the targeted value chains.”

Focusing on coffee, tea, and horticulture, the project spans 14 districts in Rwanda, aiming to enhance the competitiveness of agricultural products globally.

Of the total budget, USD 37.72 million will be allocated to climate-smart production and productivity, supporting the rehabilitation and expansion of plantation areas covering 8,242 hectares.

Key interventions include rejuvenating aging coffee trees, providing resources to tea cooperatives, and supporting exporters to secure markets.

Jean Nepo Nkurikiyinka, FERWACOTHE’s Chairperson, sees the project as pivotal for enhancing tea farmers’ income and competitiveness.

Devotha Mukaserire, Chairperson of Rwanda Federation of Horticulture Cooperatives, views the project as a lifeline against weather-induced losses in horticulture crops.

Emmanuel Ndagijimana, a horticulture farmer, identified challenges the project could address, such as access to sustainable markets.

Richard Kubana, Director General in charge of Community Mobilization and Youth Volunteers Coordination, highlighted the employment potential, stating, “Over 255,000 smallholder farmers is a big number to benefit, and the project will provide jobs to rural communities. We are happy that 30 per cent are youth.”

Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Ildephonse Musafiri, underscored the project’s role in enhancing competitiveness. He urged district authorities and partners to contribute actively to the project’s success.

Despite challenges posed by water scarcity and a weakening shilling, Rwanda is optimistic about achieving its target to generate USD 1 billion from agricultural exports in the fiscal year 2023/2024, building on the remarkable 33.74 per cent increase in agricultural export revenues to over USD 857 million in the fiscal year 2022-2023, as reported by NAEB in June 2023.

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