SAIP unlocking the potential of smallholder farmers through increased agricultural productivity, improved household incomes

Since its inception in December last year, the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Food Security Project (SAIP) has put much emphasis in supporting smallholder farmers towards improving food security, market access and household incomes in its areas of intervention across the country.

The main development objective of SAIP is to increase agricultural productivity, market access, and food security of the targeted beneficiaries in the project areas.

 The Government of Rwanda signed a Grant Agreement between the World Bank, acting as administrator of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), and the Republic of Rwanda for the financing of SAIP.

SAIP that is implemented under Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) helps to contribute to improving agricultural productivity and sustainability, improved access to inputs, financing and markets as well as improving agricultural value chains.

The project will consolidate, sustain and scale-up the efforts undertaken by the recently completed projects- Land Husbandry Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation (LWH) project and the Third Phase of the Rural Sector Support Project (RSSP3).

Presently, SAIP is implemented in eight districts: Rulindo, Rwamagana, Karongi, Rutsiro, Kayonza, Nyanza, Gatsibo, and Nyabihu, however, the project implementation will expand to other areas during implementation as required by the Government of Rwanda and in agreement with the World Bank Group.

SAIP is implemented under the four components; 1. Institutional Strengthening, Agriculture Productivity Enhancement, and Nutrition Improvement, 2. Irrigation and Water Use Efficiency, 3. Market Linkages and Value Addition Investment Support and, 4. Project Management and Technical Assistance.

Through the above components, the project is strengthening the livelihoods of smallholder farmers enabling them access to technical know-how on improved agriculture practices i.e, inputs, credit, post-harvest management, irrigation infrastructure maintenance, value addition and better market linkages.

SAIP enhanced the development of sustainable market linkages and value addition, through increased performance and commercialization of selected value chains; vegetables and fruits for domestic, regional and international markets, maize for domestic and regional markets, Irish potatoes for domestic and regional markets while beans for domestic markets.

The project is also boosting agricultural productivity, with much of the emphasis on commercialising agriculture using modern inputs and encouraging the integration of smallholders into agricultural value chains, particularly those producing for export markets.

Producing for export markets means that the farmers will generate more income, hence spend more in the country’s economic growth, creating jobs, and more demand for agricultural goods.

Institutional Strengthening, Agriculture Productivity Enhancement, and Nutrition Improvement

Under this component, the project will strengthen selected farmer organizations for improved agricultural productivity and healthier household nutrition and proactively engage youth and women.

Specifically, SAIP will work hand in hand with identified youth groups to serve as service providers and support farmers to shift from subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture.

Due to improved agricultural practices, farmers have recorded increased crop produce whereby Maize increased from 1.55 t/ha to 4t/ha, Climbing beans from 0.8t/ha to 3.1t/ha, Bush beans 0.6t/ha to 2t/ha and Irish potatoes from 3t/ha to 25t/ha.

The project has supported smallholder farmers to strengthen the food system and advance sustainable farming practices. SAIP put much of the focus on increasing output from smallholder farmers.

SAIP takes into account the role women play in agricultural production, food and nutritional security for their households. It acknowledges that gender equality helps to reduce poverty, and positively impacts the larger community.

More to this, the project is teaching and mobilizing its targeted beneficiaries to improve their nutritional practices through establishment of kitchen gardens per household and with this, Kitchen garden demonstrations have been installed in different parts of the site for teaching referral practices to the beneficiaries and as well demonstrated how the food is prepared and combined to attain dietary diversification through cooking demonstrations with the help of Community Health Workers.

Irrigation and Water Use Efficiency

Under this component, SAIP is promoting technology and best practice for increased availability and efficient use of water for irrigation to increase crop productivity and increase farmers’ resilience to climate volatility.

This component focuses on improving water availability and efficiency, expansion of existing irrigation schemes and introduction of small scale irrigation technologies.

Access to water for irrigation is one important way to support farmers to increase agricultural productivity. Farmers in SAIP intervention areas across the country have managed to overcome challenges of rainfall shortage most especially in rain-fed areas.

Improved irrigation systems have enabled farmers to access enough water to secure bumper harvests and, now they are shifting to the cultivation of higher export-value crops.

 The project has begun the installation of Small Scale Irrigation Technologies
(SSTIs) demonstration plots with efficient irrigation technologies in existing irrigation schemes.

The introduction of irrigation schemes has resulted into the formation of Water Users Associations (WUAs) to manage water distribution, pricing and water rights systems in order to conserve water and achieve higher water efficiency and productivity.

Market Linkages and Value Addition Investment Support

In order to boost opportunities for farmers to earn a better income, SAIP is enhancing market linkages and value addition by strengthening the capacity of farmers’ organizations and other value chain actors in the Project selected value chains, agro-processing enterprises and their access to finance.  

Farmers in all the project sites have been equipped with post-harvest facilities (storages and cold rooms) to help improve food production and reduce post-harvest losses.

The project has trained farmers on how to handle their yield after harvest to minimize losses and to work together to meet market requirements.

SAIP is consolidating and scaling-up the efforts undertaken by LWH and RSSP3, strengthening the development of sustainable market linkages, value addition and investment support through increased performance and commercialization of selected value chains.

It has strengthened farmers’ access to markets by boosting their efforts to adopt new practices, increase their productivity and become more profitable.

                           Target beneficiaries

During SAIP implementation, about 38,606 farmers’ households will directly benefit from the project, while 200,000 family members of the targeted households will be indirect beneficiaries of the project, out of whom about 84,000 are women.

The beneficiary farmers’ households are organized into 1,724 Self Help Groups (SHGs) of 20–30 members each, established under former projects- LWH and RSSP3.

The SHGs are mobilised into 121 zones and 16 cooperatives.

During SAIP implementation, emphasis will be placed on ensuring women and youth participation and leadership in the SHGs and cooperatives.

Apart from farmers’ households, the project will also benefit other value chain actors including entrepreneurs and small and micro agri-businesses working in selected value chains.

Communities in the target areas at large will indirectly benefit from the project through investments in SACCOs, post-harvest and Agri-processing equipment, and as well as market linkages. Specific emphasis will be placed on identifying and providing opportunities for income-generating activities for women and youth.

In conclusion, SAIP fully acknowledges that investing in agriculture is one of the most effective ways of reducing hunger and poverty, promoting agricultural productivity and enhancing environmental sustainability.