Rural feeder roads development opens Rwanda countryside to agriculture development
Unlocking rural areas for development can only be complete when there is a good road network that connects farmers and their produce to markets—processing centres and or consumers—mainly found in townships and urban centres.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) was, in 2011, given the mandate of implementing a Rural Feeder Roads Program (RFRP) in 16 districts across the country. The implementation was however started in 2013 after signing financing programmes with the European Union, World Bank, The Netherlands, African Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development and USAID.
The programme feeds into the second phase of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II—2013-2018) in which rural infrastructure development is considered as one of the basic foundations for opening up rural areas through improved access to markets—of both produce and farm implements.
The specific objective of the program is to enhance access of food products to markets and/or transformation centers, especially in areas with high agricultural potential, through the improvement of the rural feeder roads in the framework of decentralization. On the whole, however, the Program aims at increasing the market for agricultural output on a competitive quality production; Contribution to transformation of the lives of rural Rwandans through Rural Feeder-Roads Development Program; Creating road access to social facility centers of both production and marketing areas and Connecting centers of economic growth and social facilities of Rwanda rural areas.
The RFRP major components are; rehabilitation, upgrading and maintenance, targeting about 2550km of feeder roads and 7000km of farm roads, requiring to undertake works on 510 km per year.
The project, now in its third year, has so far rehabilitated, upgraded and maintained 1598 km of feeder roads, representing about 60% of the target.
MINAGRI is the lead implementation institution, working with other government entities such as; MININFRA, LODA, MINALOC, RTDA, ACETP and RMF.
Rural communities where the program is being implemented do benefit in more ways than one. Members of Local Community Associations (with membership of between 30-60) are trained in the Labor-based Intensive approach (HIMO)thereby providing more jobs to the local vulnerable population, especially those in Ubudehe categories one and two, contributing to poverty levels reduction in the process.
According to the RFRP Program Manager, Eng. Emile Ruzibiza, local communities are trained in Labour-based technology techniques, works and maintenance skills who are then contracted by the districts to maintain roads on a regular basis.
MINAGRI through RFRP also supports the imparting of skills among district engineers, small and medium road contractors and builders in, especially, the HIMO approach.
Some roads that have been constructed and rehabilitated under RFRP have been completed and handed over to the public. In Ngoma District, Eastern Province, in Rukira Sector, the Kibaya-Gituku stretching on 16.5KM was completed in October 2014 at cost of over Rwf 896 million under the auspices the European Union.
FRDP initial phase of 49 million USD was funded by the World Bank and used for rehabilitation, upgrading and maintenance of selected feeder roads in Rwamagana District (93 km), Eastern Province, Gisagara District (71 km), Southern Province, Karongi (75 km) and Nyamasheke (52 km) District, Western Province.
With the additional financing of 50 million USD from USAID, the project is rehabilitating selected feeder roads in Nyagatare and Gatsibo Districts in Eastern Province, Nyabihu and Rutsiro in Western Province and Nyaruguru in the Southern Province.
Additional funds will add 350 km of feeder roads on the current targets.
The all season road connectivity to agricultural market centres and vital services in the districts has improved the delivery of agricultural inputs; fertilisers, seeds, simple machinery—among others, while, at the same time, household incomes have been improved through timely access to markets of farmers produce.
“When the rural feeder roads are in place, farmers’ confidence of venturing into a diversity of crops is boosted. Farmers engage in the growth of even the perishable crops since they are assured of timely access to markets, diversifying production and incomes in the process,” considers Engineer Ruzibiza.
This opens up commercial opportunities and services that make farming a more profitable livelihood for rural inhabitants and an important means of addressing food insecurity and increased commercialization.
Ruzibiza says with systematic maintenance of rural feeder roads transport costs of taking farm implements to farmers and transporting their produce to market centers have gone down.
The project will close in December 2021.